Rui Costa in Portugal or Manuel in Italy, there is a nickname that is universal when it comes to the former Benfica, Fiorentina, and Milan number 10: Maestro.
From his beloved club to the 12 years in Italy, there are titles and a love story that it is worth remembering now that the reds face the "viola" and "rossoneri" at the ICC 2019.
At the Clube da Luz since he was eight years old (1980), Rui Manuel César Costa quickly stood out and even Eusébio was impressed to see the delicate and elegant way the kid treated the ball. Always with the ball close to his feet, his head held high... right there at an early age everyone realized he had an unusual talent for football.
He grew up and he rose through the club’s youth ranks. When the time came to jump to the spotlight, Benfica handed him the possibility to rack up minutes at Fafe.
He displayed quality under the watchful eye of Sven-Göran Eriksson, with six goals in 38 matches, and the Swedish coach considered it was time for him spread his magic on the demanding pitch of the old Estádio da Luz. Rui Costa, already with the U-20 World Champion title in his resume (won with Portugal at Estádio da Luz), was ready, despite being 19 years old.
In his debut season – 1991/92 – the playmaker made 32 appearances, scored four goals and racked up more than 1500 minutes.
In 1992/93, close to turning 21, Rui Costa was one of starters in a squad that featured Mozer, Vítor Paneira, Schwarz, Mostovoi, Paulo Sousa, Isaías, Rui Águas, João Vieira Pinto, and Futre!
It was luxury group, but the Maestro sought– and found – his place. He registered the same stats (32 matches/4 goals) and won a Portuguese cup.
The next Summer was of upheaval at Benfica. Rui Costa resisted and in the end was rewarded with the national title playing for his beloved club. He finished the season with nine goals in 47 matches, he drew the attention of the European football and he ended up moving to Fiorentina, from Italy.
Idol in Florence
In the historic and beautiful city of Florence, Rui Costa, or Manuel for the Italian, made a formidable partnership with Batistuta and added titles to the compendium he had taken from Lisbon.
He represented Fiorentina for seven seasons, scored 50 goals, carried out 276 official matches, was the team captain and won two Italian Cups and one Super Cup. Even today, after so many years, he is seen as a hero by the fans of the club.
The consecration at Milan
In 2001/02 he traveled further north and took up residence in the region of Lombardy to play at AC Milan.
In 191 matches, he scored 11 goals, sharing with Kaká – often simultaneously – Milan’s midfield.
Before returning to Benfica, playing for AC Milan, Rui Costa added one Italian League title, one Italian Cup, one Italian Super Cup, one European Super Cup, and one Champions League.
Close a brilliant career with an eagle on his chest
After the spell in Italy, the Maestro came back home to end his career like he had always wished: wearing the Sacred Mantle. He added two seasons to the other ones he had already made for Benfica, closing the cycle at the Club, with 178 encounters and 28 goals.
However, more than stats, Rui Costa's relationship with Benfica is pure and genuine love, and the farewell in the match against V. Setúbal, on May 11, 2008, is proof of that.
Now at the International Champions Cup, Rui Costa will see "his" Benfica lock horns two other emblems that are dear to him: Fiorentina and Milan.
Text: Marco Rebelo
Photos: Archive / SL Benfica