Lima making most of second chance
© AFP

Back in December 2003, a talented but unknown young striker by the name of Lima arrived in Portugal for what he hoped would be a successful stay with Vizela of the Segunda Divisao, the third tier of the Portuguese league. The 19-year-old Brazilian failed to make much of an impact, however, and his adventure was over almost as soon as it began.

Little did anyone suspect that he would come back to Portugal years later to star for one of its most celebrated clubs and figure among the most feared strikers in the land.

Returning to his home country after that luckless six-month stint, Lima played for a succession of clubs, among them Juventus of Sao Paulo, Santos and Avai, managing an appearance or two in the Copa Libertadores along the way. Yet, as far as he was concerned, there was some unfinished business to settle across the Atlantic.

His opportunity to do just that came in 2009, after a proposed move to Ukrainian club Metalist Kharkiv broke down at an advanced stage. Unfashionable Lisbon outfit Belenenses stepped in for the player and soon found that they had made a very wise investment, his ten goals for the Blues sparking the interest of Portugal’s biggest clubs.

A major final
Braga won the race for Lima’s signature. He repaid their faith almost immediately, starring in some of the club’s greatest ever achievements, including their qualification for the group phase of the UEFA Champions League in 2010/11, which came courtesy of the hat-trick he scored against Sevilla in the third qualifying round. Since appearing in Europe’s leading club competition, his career has continued to soar.

In finishing third in their group that season, Os Arsenalistas earned a place in the latter stages of the UEFA Europa League and made the most of the opportunity, reaching the final against Porto in Dublin, a game that Lima started. Though the showpiece ended in defeat for Braga, it did not stop their Brazilian front man hitting new heights.

At the start of the following season, the Braga chairman challenged him to score 20 goals. Picking up the gauntlet, Lima did even better, helping himself to 26 goals in all to continue his rapid rise.

Onwards and upwards
In the weeks leading up to the start of this season the Portuguese press was full of stories about Lima’s future, with several suitors pressing for his signature. Yet it was not until the last day of the summer transfer window that his next port of call was revealed, as Benfica made the Brazilian goal machine theirs.

Finding plenty of competition for a starting berth at the Estadio da Luz, not least from Paraguayan striker Oscar Cardozo and the Spanish U-21 international Rodrigo, Lima responded by doing what he does best, scoring goal after goal to give As Águias an instant return on their investment.

The Brazilian has found the back of the net 25 times in 43 matches for the Lisbon side and is the league’s third-highest scorer with 15 goals, one behind team-mate Cardozo and eight adrift of Porto’s Jackson Martinez. Some of his strikes have proved important too, keeping Benfica firmly in the hunt for glory in the league, the Taca de Portugal and the Europa League.

The trophy trail
Benfica’s ongoing European campaign could well give Lima the chance to erase memories of that final defeat to Porto two years ago. His contribution to it has been a compelling one, with the Brazilian chipping in with two goals as Jorge Jesus’ side defeated Newcastle United 3-1 in the first leg of their quarter-final, with the return match to come at St James’ Park this evening.

Lima and Benfica are gunning for an unprecedented treble, having built up a four-point lead over Porto in the league and taken a 2-0 aggregate lead over Pacos de Ferreira in their national cup semi-final. Given his princely form, the Brazilian is sure to have plenty more to say as Benfica’s richly promising season nears its conclusion.