Rui Costa

Rui Manuel César Costa OIH (Portuguese pronunciation: [ʁuj ˈkɔʃtɐ]; born 29 March 1972) is a Portuguese retired professional footballer.

Rui Costa
Costa with Benfica in 2007
Personal information
Full name Rui Manuel César Costa
Date of birth (1972-03-29) 29 March 1972 (age 49)
Place of birth Amadora, Portugal
Height 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
Position(s) Attacking midfielder
Youth career
1977–1990 Benfica
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1990–1994 Benfica 78 (13)
1990–1991Fafe (loan) 38 (6)
1994–2001 Fiorentina 215 (38)
2001–2006 Milan 124 (4)
2006–2008 Benfica 43 (5)
Total 498 (66)
National team
1990 Portugal U18 4 (1)
1991 Portugal U20 11 (1)
1992–1994 Portugal U21 19 (7)
1993–2004 Portugal 94 (26)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Regarded as one of the best midfielders in world football and one of Portugal's best players in recent history,[1][2] Costa usually played as an attacking midfielder and was particular known for his excellent technique, playmaking ability, and eye for goal from midfield. In 2004, he was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 as one of the 125 greatest living football players.[3]

Nicknamed "The Maestro" and “Il Musagete”,[2] Costa spent the majority of his career with Benfica in Portugal and Fiorentina and A.C. Milan in Italy. In a top-flight career spanning 17 years, he won several trophies, including one Primeira Liga title, one Taça de Portugal, one Serie A title, three Coppa Italia, one UEFA Champions League and one UEFA Super Cup. A Portuguese international, he amassed 94 caps and scored 26 goals for A Seleção and represented the country in three UEFA European Championships and one FIFA World Cup.

Club career


At age five, Costa joined the infant indoor football team of Damaia Ginásio Clube. Costa tried his luck at Benfica. Within ten minutes of training, Portugal legend Eusébio, who was supervising the youngsters, was impressed with Costa's skills. Up until 1990, Costa played for Benfica's youth squads. In his first full season, he was loaned to A.D. Fafe on a season-long deal.[4]

In 1991, after the Under-21 World Cup, which Portugal won after a penalty kick scored by Costa, he returned to Benfica. In his first full season with Benfica, he was featured regularly in Benfica's team. In his next two seasons, his role in the team would prove to be pivotal as Benfica captured two trophies. He formed a formidable midfield partnership with João Vieira Pinto. During his last two seasons with Benfica in his first spell with the club, he won the Taça de Portugal in 1993 and the Portuguese First Division title in 1993–94.[5][6] This would be Benfica's last league title for 11 years.[7]


At the end of his third season in Benfica's senior squad, Fiorentina offered 1,200 million escudos (approximately €6 million)[citation needed] for the young midfielder. Since Benfica were struggling with financial problems, Costa had to leave.[citation needed]

Despite the heavy competition with the best midfielders in that time such as Zinedine Zidane, Costa was named the best number 10 player in 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 Fiorentina one season before their bankruptcy in the 2001–02 season. With the Florentine club, Costa won the Coppa Italia twice, also winning a Supercoppa Italiana. In June 2001, Fiorentina agreed to sell both Costa and Francesco Toldo to Parma for 140 billion lire.[8] Despite both players refusal to join, Costa and Toldo were sold to AC Milan and Inter Milan, respectively, for the same total transfer fee.


Fatih Terim was the coach of Fiorentina in the 2000–01 season. When he was leaving Fiorentina for Milan, he took Costa with him,[9] paying an 85 billion lire (€43,898,836) for the player.[10][11] In so doing, Costa became Milan's most expensive transfer of all-time. He played five seasons in Milan, where he won one Serie A title, one Coppa Italia, one Italian Super Cup, one UEFA Champions League and one UEFA Super Cup. He played less frequently following the arrival of Brazilian youngster Kaká in 2003.

Return to Benfica

On 25 May 2006, Costa's return to Benfica to play in the upcoming 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 gave up of his €4.6 million per year contract with Milan after he had dreamt of his return to Benfica year after year.[12][13][14] His return saw former Benfica and Portugal international Eusébio praise Costa's return.[15] Costa's first match back saw him start in a 2006–07 UEFA Champions League qualifier against Austria Wien in August 2006.[16] The return leg saw Costa score in his return to the Estádio da Luz in the 21st minute. Benfica would go on to win 3–0 and clinch a place in the group stages of the Champions League.[17][18][19]

Following the start of the season, Costa would suffer a serious injury which would keep him out of action for three months.[20] Costa returned in January 2007, in a Taça de Portugal fourth round tie against Oliveira do Bairro S.C..[21][22] Following his return, he was used as a regular in Benfica's starting XI under manager Fernando Santos. His first season would see Benfica finish behind rivals Porto and Sporting CP in the Primeira Liga. In other competitions Benfica participated in, the club would be eliminated in the round of 16 in the Taça de Portugal and bow out of the UEFA Cup against Espanyol.

Prior to start of the 2007–08 Primeira Liga, Costa would announce that the 2007–08 season would be his last as a professional. Despite the sacking of Fernando Santos at the beginning of the league campaign, Costa would remain a first team regular under José Antonio Camacho. The first match of the season saw Costa be decisive in Benfica reaching the Champions League group stage. He scored two goals in a qualifier against Copenhagen in the first leg.[23] He would also play an important part in the second leg where Benfica defeated the Danish side 1–0 away from home to seal Benfica's third consecutive presence in the group stage.[24]

Costa would score his first league goal since his return to Benfica against C.D. Nacional in September 2007.[25] His displays in the league would earn him the SJPF Player of the Month award for September 2007. Following qualification to the group stage, Benfica was drawn against Costa's former club Milan. The inaugural match of the group stage in September 2007 saw Benfica take on the Rossoneri at the San Siro, where Milan won 2–1.[26] The return fixture on matchday 5 would see Milan visit the Estádio da Luz, where the teams drew 1–1.[27] Benfica would exit the competition in third place behind Milan and Celtic, thereby dropping into the knockout stages of the UEFA Cup.

In the new year, Benfica dropped various points along their campaign to Académica de Coimbra, Braga, Porto, Sporting CP and União de Leiria, which effectively dropped them out of the title race. Their failure to compete for the title resulted in Benfica setting their priorities to capture third place which secured a Champions League qualification. Benfica would fail to capture third place, which instead would go to newly promoted Vitória de Guimarães. Benfica would also drop out of the round of 16 of the UEFA Cup to Spanish side Getafe. Under Costa's captaincy, Benfica would also fall short in the 2007–08 Taça de Portugal, where they lost to Sporting in the semi-finals despite Costa scoring in a match which ended 5–3.[28] Costa played his final match on 11 May 2008 at the Estádio da Luz against Vitória de Setúbal. He was substituted in the 86th minute to a standing ovation from the spectators.[29]

International career

In the summer of 1991, Costa's displays at Fafe had impressed Portugal Under-21 coach Carlos Queiroz so much that he was called up to the team to represent Portugal in the World Youth Cup. The Portuguese under-20 national team won a World Youth Championship in 1991. His clinching penalty kick against Brazil in the final helped win the title on home soil and announced Costa as one of the brightest members of what would become known as the “Golden Generation.”

Costa was a member of Portugal's most consistent years at senior level as the team reached the quarter-finals of UEFA Euro 1996, the semi-finals of Euro 2000 and the final of UEFA Euro 2004.

Costa was especially instrumental in helping Portugal reach the 2004 final on home soil, scoring a screamer of a goal at the Estádio da Luz against England in the quarter-final match, and the sight of a distraught Costa at the end of a 1–0 defeat to Greece was one of the enduring images of the tournament.

Costa also took part in the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan and South Korea, scoring Portugal's winning goal in their 4–0 win over Poland. The only time in his career that Costa was sent off was in an international game against Germany.

Despite being principally a provider, Costa scored 26 goals in 94 games; he is Portugal's eighth-highest appearance maker and seventh-highest goalscorer.[30]

Style of play

Considered one of the greatest midfielders of his generation,[2][31] Costa was a classic number 10, who usually played in a creative role as an attacking midfielder behind the strikers, but was also capable of playing as a deep-lying playmaker, as a second striker, or as a winger. A quick, intelligent, and hard-working player, throughout his career, he was renowned for his fine technique, dribbling skills, close control, movement, great vision, and precise passing, which made him an excellent assist provider, and enabled him to create space for his teammates, or orchestrate his teams' attacking moves. Although he was mainly known to be an unselfish team player, he also possessed an eye for goal from midfield, and was an accurate striker of the ball with both feet, in particular from outside the area. He was also an accurate free kick and penalty taker.[1][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41] Despite his ability, however, he was also known for being inconsistent.[42]


Costa was sponsored by American sportswear company Nike and appeared in Nike commercials.[43][44] In 1996, he starred in a Nike commercial titled "Good vs Evil" in a gladiatorial game set in a Roman amphitheatre. Appearing alongside football players from around the world, including Ronaldo, Paolo Maldini, Eric Cantona, Luís Figo and Patrick Kluivert, they defend "the beautiful game" against a team of demonic warriors, before it culminates with Cantona striking the ball and destroying evil.[43] Rui Costa features in EA Sports' FIFA football video game series; he was included in the Ultimate Team Legends in FIFA 16.[45]

Director career

On the day after his final professional game, Costa was presented as director of football at Benfica, hiring Quique Sánchez Flores as head coach and being responsible for the formation of the team in the next season.

During the summer 2008 transfer window, Costa was able – already as director of football – to sign a few well-known players, such as Argentine playmaker Pablo Aimar and bringing in Spanish 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 more strengthened Benfica team following a disappointing league campaign in the previous season.

He would make several high-profile signings such as Argentine striker Javier Saviola, Brazilian attacking midfielder Ramires and Spanish defensive midfielder Javi García, along with experienced Portuguese manager Jorge Jesus.[46][47][48][49] His major signings would prove to be successful as Benfica would win the Primeira Liga in the 2009–10 season for the first time in five years. Benfica would also win the Taça da Liga in the same season defeating Porto in the final.

Career statistics



Club Season League Cup Europe Other Total
Fafe 1990–91 Segunda Divisão 38600386
Benfica 1991–92 Primeira Liga 214307010324
1992–93 234414010325
1993–94 3453184204710
Total 78131021944011119
Fiorentina 1994–95 Serie A 31940359
1995–96 34472416
1996–97 282108010382
1997–98 32352375
1998–99 311074103914
1999–00 30440142486
2000–01 2967220388
Total 2153835102521027650
Milan 2001–02 Serie A 22010103333
2002–03 25051180481
2003–04 283406030413
2004–05 241409010381
2005–06 2503340323
Total 12441744734019211
Benfica 2006–07 Primeira Liga 1403051221
2007–08 295431224510
Total 435731736711
Career total 498666919108129068497



International goals











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Further reading

  • Lopes, Luís (2008). Os Magníficos: Rui Costa, O grande maestro do futebol português [The Magnificents: Rui Costa, The great maestro of Portuguese football] (First ed.). QuidNovi. ISBN 978-989-554-499-8.