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Rui Manuel César Costa, OIH ( ; born 29 March 1972) is a former Portuguesemarker football player and current Director of Football for Sport Lisboa e Benfica. An attacking midfielder also capable of playing as a deep-seated defensive midfielder, he most recently played for Portuguesemarker club Benfica. In 2004, he was named by Pelé to the FIFA 100, a list of the 125 greatest living football players.

Career

At the age of five, Costa joined the infant indoor football team of Damaia Ginásio Clube. Rui tried his luck at Benfica. Within ten minutes of training, Portugal legend Eusébio, who was supervising the youngsters, was impressed at Rui's skills. Up until 1990, Rui played for Benfica's youth squads. That season he was loaned to Fafe on a season long deal.

In 1991, after the Under-21 World Cup, which Portugal won after a victorious penalty kick scored by Costa, he returned to Benfica. There, he won the Cup of Portugal in 1993 and the Portuguese First Division title in 1993-94. This would be Benfica's last league title for 11 years. At the end of his third season in Benfica's senior squad, Fiorentina offered 1200 million escudos (about 6 million euros) for the young midfielder, an impressive fee at the time. Since Benfica was struggling with financial problems, Rui Costa had to leave.

Despite the heavy competition with the best midfielders in that time such as Zinedine Zidane, Costa was named the best number 10 player in the Serie A a few times. His departure from Fiorentina was discussed every season, since many clubs constantly showed interest in signing him. However, he only left when Fiorentina went bankrupt after the 2001-02 season.

Fatih Terim was the coach of Fiorentina in the 2000-01 season. When he was leaving Fiorentina for Milan, he took Costa with him, paying €35 million for the player. In doing so, Costa became Milan's most expensive transfer of all-time. Costa played five seasons in Milan, where he won one Serie A title, one Italian Cup, one Italian Super Cup, one UEFA Champions League, and one European Super Cup.

In 2003, Brazilian youngster Kaká joined the ranks at Milan and relegated Costa to the bench. Though pleased with Kaká's success, he was disappointed to be restricted to the bench in the twilight of his career.

In 2004, Costa played his last match for the Portuguese squad at the UEFA Euro 2004 final, when Portugal lost to underdogs Greece 1-0 in what was considered a titanic upset.

On 25 May 2006, Costa's return to Benfica to play for the forthcoming season was announced in a press conference. He had been released from Milan after both the player and the club reached an agreement to end his contract. Costa also gave up his €4.6 million per year contract to play in the club that, year after year, had dreamt of his return. Costa's affection for Benfica is publicly known and so is his desire to end his career at the Portuguese club. On 11 May 2008, Costa played his last game for Benfica against Vitória de Setúbal before announcing his retirement from football.

On the following day, Costa was presented as the new leader of the football department, hiring Quique Sánchez Flores as the new manager of Benfica and being responsible for the formation of the team in the next season.

During the 2008 Summer transfer window, Costa was able – already as Director of Football – to sign a few well-known players, such as Argentinemarker playmaker Pablo Aimar and bringing in Spanishmarker left-winger José Antonio Reyes and Honduran striker David Suazo in on loan, thus gaining general praise from both board and fans alike.

On the following Summer, Costa further increased his efforts to build a solid Benfica team, with such signings as Argentineanmarker striker Javier Saviola, Brazilian centre midfielder Ramires and Spanish defensive midfielder Javi García, along with experienced Portuguese manager Jorge Jesus.

Golden Generation

Costa is a member of the popularly coined "Golden Generation" in Portuguese football, alongside players such as Luís Figo, João Pinto, and Pauleta. The Portuguese under-20 national team won two successive World Youth Championship in 1989 and 1991; Costa and fellow FIFA 100 member Figo were members of the 1991 team. With their success at youth level, much was expected of the Portuguese national team at senior level. However, they did not win a major international tournament at senior level, although they reached the semi-finals at UEFA Euro 2000, qualified for the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the last several members helped lead Portugal to its first-ever major final at UEFA Euro 2004, losing in a massive upset to Greece. Despite being principally a provider, Costa scored 26 goals in 94 games for Portugal. Despite not winning any major international titles, they managed to bring Portugal to their finest moments since the days of the legendary Eusébio in the 1960s.

Honours



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