The foundation and first years (1904–1910)
Active departments of
Football Futsal Basketball
Roller hockey Handball Volleyball
Rugby union Cycling Athletics
Beach soccer Swimming Judo
Boxing Table Tennis Gymnastics
On 28 February 1904, a meeting of young people from the Belém neighborhood of Lisbon and former students from the Real Casa Pia de Lisboa took place at the Farmácia Franco (Franco Pharmacy), located on Rua de Belém in the southwest part of Lisbon, with the goal of forming a new football club that would be called Grupo Sport Lisboa. There were a total of 24 people who attended the meeting, including the co-founder and future soul of the football club, Cosme Damião. During the meeting, José Rosa Rodrigues was appointed as the club's first president, along with Daniel Brito as secretary and Manuel Gourlade as treasurer.
The first game was played in January 1905. Despite important football victories in the first few years, the club suffered due to poor operating conditions. As a result, in 1907, several players from the first team joined the then more prosperous Sporting Clube de Portugal, located across the city.
In 1908, Grupo Sport Lisboa acquired, by mutual agreement, the Sport Clube de Benfica, a club founded in 1906 as Grupo Sport Benfica and later changed its name to Sport Clube de Benfica. Despite the merger of the two football clubs, Grupo Sport Lisboa and Sport Clube de Benfica continued their respective club operations. For Grupo Sport Lisboa, they maintained the football team, the red and white shirt colors, the eagle as the symbol, the "E Pluribus Unum" as the motto, and the logo. For Sport Clube de Benfica, they maintained the football field, the main directors, and the club's house.
Under the mutual agreement, both Sport Clube de Benfica and Grupo Sport Lisboa determined that the foundation date of the newly formed club should coincide with the foundation date of Grupo Sport Lisboa, 28 February 1904, given that it was the most recognized club (of the two) in the merger and it was already quite popular in Lisbon due to its football merits. (It is interesting to note that Sport Lisboa e Benfica is the only club of the "Big Three" that has never changed its foundation date.) With regard to the new club's logo, a bicycle wheel was added to the Grupo Sport Lisboa's original logo, which represented the most important sport of Sport Clube de Benfica. As for the new club's name, Benfica from Sport Clube de Benfica was added to the Sport Lisboa of Grupo Sport Lisboa to form Sport Lisboa e Benfica, which remains the formal full name of Benfica today. As for other notes, the club moved from the Belém area of Lisbon to the present-day Benfica area, which is a neighborhood located in the northern part of the city. Furthermore, the two entities of the new club had simultaneous associates, which helped to stabilize operations and later increased the success of the merger.
In October 1908, a month after the agreement, the club won the first game ever against Sporting Clube de Portugal. Then, in the 1909–10 season, Benfica ended Carcavelos Club's reign (for the last three years) as Lisbon Champions. In addition, that season was considered a "golden one", as the club won all three regional championships in Portuguese competition, thus establishing a record.
 An early age of achievements (1910–1921)
Between 1905 and 1922, the club won 11 Lisbon regional titles in football.
Meanwhile,club’s popularity increased outside of Lisbon's city borders. Several affiliate clubs were created, mainly in the Algarve.
The 1913–14 season was very successful, as the club was the first to win the regional Lisbon championships in all the four categories.
The first international matches were played with some relevant results: in 1913, the club won their first international football trophy, named Torneio Três Cidades (Three Cities' Tournament).
The rink hockey department was created in 1917. In 1919, the club organized the first ever football game played at night in Portugal.
It was not until the 1920s that the club became more known as Benfica. A falling out within the club regarding some football players led to several members leaving the club and founding Clube de Futebol Os Belenenses, which is now Lisbon's third largest football club. This is regarded as the second major crisis within the club.
 Football crisis and cycling dominance (1922–1930)
The national football competitions only began in the 1920s. The impact of the defection of players to Clube de Futebol Os Belenenses was made worse by further losses due to the creation of Casa Pia Atlético Clube in Lisbon. This exodus of players left Sport Lisboa e Benfica struggling in the following years and the club would only win two regional titles until 1930.
Fortunately for Benfica, cycling picked up the slack and became an important source of victories. Spearheading the team was Alfredo Luís Piedade, considered to be one of the greatest names in Portuguese cycling.
In 1925, the club inaugurated the Amoreiras Stadium. The departments of field hockey, rugby, and basketball were created in this decade; only the first mentioned doesn’t have official activities today.
 The first national football titles (1930s)
The 1930s were a much kinder decade to Benfica. The club's football team started the decade by winning two national championships (for the first time) in 1930 and 1931 and one regional championship.
After losing the first national championship to Futebol Clube do Porto in the 1934–35 season, Benfica won the next three championships in a row (1935–36, 1936–37, and 1937–38), and their first Portuguese Cup, in 1939–40.
Cycling continued to be the key sport within the club. The duels between Benfica's José Maria Nicolau and Sporting Clube de Portugal's Alfredo Trinidade on the road throughout the country enthralled many fans and were a critical factor for the ascendance of popularity of not only Benfica but also Sporting. José Maria Nicolau is regarded as one of Benfica's greatest ever cyclist and won two Volta a Portugal's titles in 1931 and 1934.
 The 1940s
The 1940s saw the domination by Benfica and Sporting in the country's football championship to an extent never seen before. Between 1941 and 1950, the two clubs finished first and second in every championship except for the 1945–46 season when Benfica finished second to Os Belenenses. During this period, Benfica and Sporting each won four titles. By now, football was clearly the club's most important sport.
 The 1950s
Benfica's first major international football success happened in 1950 when they won the Latin Cup by defeating Bordeaux in the final. The Latin Cup was then seen as one of Europe's most prestigious European Cups in a time when UEFA had yet to launch its unified European Cups.
Another highlight came in 1954 when Benfica moved into the famous Estádio da Luz. It initially had capacity for 40,000 spectators, but this was gradually expanded due to club's growing success and fan base.
Benfica won three championships during the 1950s and were runner-ups three times. They also gathered six Portuguese Cups, and their accomplishments included a series of four consecutive victories between 1948 and 1953. The Portuguese cup was not held in 1950 due to the Latin Cup being organized in Portugal.
In addition to all these successes, Benfica was able to end the decade with the foundations in place enabling the club to enter the 1960s with one of the best teams in Europe.
 The golden era (1960–1970)
Benfica was the first team to break Real Madrid's dominance in the early European Champions' Cup. Having won two European Cups in a row against FC Barcelona (1961) and Real Madrid (1962).
During this decade, Benfica would reach another three European Champions' Cup finals, but the Lisbon club never managed to win a European trophy again, having lost against Milan (1963), Internazionale (1965), and Manchester United (1968).
In 1968, Benfica was considered the best European team by France Football, despite its defeat in the Champions Cup. Many of its successes in the 1960s were achieved with all-time football great Eusébio playing for the Lisbon side. In fact, the 1960s were the best period of Benfica history, in which the club won an astonishing eight Championships (1960, '61, '63, '64, '65, '67, '68, and '69), three Portuguese Cups (1961, '64, and '69), and two European Champions Cup (1961 and '62).
 The silver era (1970–1994)
During the 1970s, the team faded slightly from the European scene, but remained the main force inside Portuguese football, winning six championships (1971, '72, '73, '75, '76, and '77) and two Portuguese cups (1970 and '72). Jimmy Hagan led the club to three successive Portuguese championships, and once to the national cup between 1970 and 1973. Benfica also attracted Europe-wide attention when the team reached the semi-finals of the European Cup of Champions, where the team was only narrowly defeated 1–0 on aggregate by the legendary Ajax side of that era.
In 1972–73, Benfica became the only club in Portugal to last a whole season without defeat and won 28 matches — 23 consecutively — out of 30, and drew two. In that year, Eusébio also became Europe's top scorer with 40 goals, in what was his penultimate season as a Benfica player. The team scored 101 goals, breaking 100 only for the second time in their history.
The club had some problems in the late 1970s, early 1980s, but managed to stand up to its standards again, this time under the guidance of Sven-Göran Eriksson. In two years (1983 and 1984) the club won two championships, one Portuguese Cup, and reached the final of the UEFA Cup in 1983 against Anderlecht.
Following the completion of improvements to the football stadium, the board of Benfica decided to open the third level of the Estádio da Luz, which transformed it into one of the biggest in Europe, with a standing room capacity of 120,000. In 1987, Benfica won another double (championship and Portuguese cup), an achievement done for the ninth time in their history.
During the period from 1988 to 1994, Benfica made a huge financial investment in an effort to win another European cup, but the club failed to meet its expectations. While they did reach the European cup final in 1988 and 1990, Benfica lost in the final against PSV and Milan, respectively. Domestically, Benfica won three more championships (1989, '91, and '94) and one Portuguese Cup (1993).
 The dark years (1994–2003)
Financial trouble began to undermine the club due to rampant spending and a questionable signing policy which allowed for squads composed of well over 30 players. Consequently, the period from 1994 through 2003 was arguably the darkest in the history of Benfica. During this time, Benfica only won one Portuguese Cup in 1996 and finished in embarrassing positions, such as sixth in 2000–01 and fourth in 2001–02. The debts were accumulating, and nearly every year saw the hire of a new Benfica coach and the addition of high-priced but under-performing players.
 The rebuilding years
In 2004, the club regained some of its sporting prowess, with a new president and the manager José Antonio Camacho, winning the first title in eight years (the Portuguese Cup, won against José Mourinho's Porto in the final), and in 2004–05, the first national championship in 11 years, this time with Giovanni Trapattoni as coach — in an odd season in which the top club had the least amount of points ever and an efficiency (63.7% of points obtainable) that historically would never have been enough to secure even second place. In 2005–06, Benfica won the Portuguese SuperCup for the fourth time.
In the 2005–06 Champions League, Benfica managed to reach the quarter-finals, defeating Manchester United 2–1 in the decisive group stage encounter, and then overcoming the 2005 European champions Liverpool 3–0 on aggregate. However Benfica lost in the Quarter Finals to the eventual winner Barcelona by an aggregate of 2–0, both goals coming during the second leg in Camp Nou. In the 2006–07 season, Benfica found themselves again facing Manchester United in a decisive Champions League group match in which the winner would advance. However, this time it was Manchester United who prevailed, gaining revenge in a 3–1 win.
On 20 August 2007, José Antonio Camacho returned to Benfica on a two-year contract, following the sacking of Fernando Santos after only one match in the league (a tie against the recently promoted Leixões), at time when Benfica was facing a vital Champions League qualifying game against Copenhagen. Benfica granted a place in the Champions League after defeating Copenhagen for 1–0, but eventually exited the competition at the group stage. They then parachuted to the UEFA Cup where they were defeated by Spanish debutants, Getafe. Camacho resigned a few months later, in March, with Benfica 14 points behind the leaders Porto in the Portuguese League. Benfica failed to gain a top three finish in the 2007–08 season, placing the team in the UEFA Cup for the upcoming season.
On 22 May 2008, former Valencia manager Quique Sánchez Flores was appointed as the clubs new manager for the new season.
In 2008, Benfica launched its own TV channel called Benfica TV.
In 2009, Benfica won the second edition of the Portuguese League Cup defeating their cross-town rival Sporting CP.
 The Jorge Jesus era (2009–present)
On 8 June 2009, manager Quique Sánchez Flores resigned as coach after agreeing to a friendly contractual termination; he was replaced by former Sporting de Braga manager Jorge Jesus on 17 June.
On 12 July 2009, Benfica tied 2–2 against Sion in their first of ten friendlies in the 2009–10 preseason with Óscar Cardozo and Javier Saviola each scoring a goal. On 13 July, in their second friendly, they beat defending UEFA Cup-champions Shakhtar Donetsk 2–0, with goals coming from Cardozo and Carlos Martins. On 16 July, in their third friendly, Benfica beat Athletic Bilbao 2–1 with Saviola scoring two second-half goals.
On 18 July, in their fourth friendly, they beat Olhanense 2–1 with a 74th minute highlight goal from Cardozo and an injury time goal from Miguel Vítor. On 21 July, in their fifth friendly, Benfica lost 2–1 against Atlético Madrid with their only goal coming from Cardozo. The game was played in front of 58,000 fans at the Estádio da Luz as this was the presentation game for Benfica and the first game former team-legend Simão played versus Benfica in an Atlético uniform. On 24 July, in their sixth friendly, they beat Sunderland 2–0 with goals coming from Cardozo and Maxi Pereira. On 26 July, in their seventh friendly, Benfica won the prestigious Amsterdam Tournament against Ajax 3–2, with an own goal from Ismaïl Aissati and goals from Ángel Di María and David Luiz.
On 1 August 2009, in their eighth friendly, they beat Portsmouth 4–0 with Cardozo scoring two first-half goals and Weldon scoring a second-half goal. An own goal from Wilkinson late in the second half resulted in Benfica's fourth goal of the match. On 2 August, in their ninth friendly, Benfica won the Guimarães Tournament against Vitória de Guimarães 2–0, with goals coming from Weldon and Ruben Amorim. On 8 August, in their final friendly of the 2009–10 preseason, Benfica won the Eusébio Cup on penalty kicks against Milan. At the end of full-time, the match was tied 1–1 with Benfica's goal coming from Cardozo in the second half. During the penalty kick shoot-out, goalkeeper Quim saved a total of four penalties, which gave the match to Benfica and kept the Eusébio Cup in Lisbon for the first time.
With a string of good results to start the 2009–10 season, breath-taking attacking football, and some high scoring games in the Portuguese Liga, manager Jorge Jesus and his players have brought a sense of excitement to Benfica supporters that has not been seen since the football club won the 2004–05 Portuguese Liga. This sense of excitement and renewed passion amongst Benfica fans has resulted in high hopes for domestic competitions in the 2009–10 Portuguese Liga, Cup of Portugal, and Portuguese League Cup, as well as for international competition in the UEFA Europa League.
As the season of the Portuguese Liga progressed, excitement amongst Benfica fans and intrigue amongst rival fans led to high attendance figures in both the Estádio da Luz and opposing team stadiums throughout Portugal. For example, in a Portuguese Liga match between Benfica and União de Leiria in Leiria on 26 September 2009, the Estádio Dr. Magalhães Pessoa had their highest attendance figure since the UEFA Euro 2004 tournament. Furthermore, informal estimates by those who attended the football match claim that more than 90% of the stadium was composed of Benfica supporters.
When the first half of the season ended after 15 matches, Benfica had a record of 11 wins, two draws, and one loss, with 39 goals scored and nine conceided. Benfica also has had the highest average home attendance with 46,737; their highest mark was 58,659 against FC Porto.
On 21 March, the first solid proof of the awakening of the dormant giant came with the conquest of the first trophy of the new era, a 3–0 win against arch-rivals Porto on the 2010 Portuguese League Cup. A game completely dominated by Benfica, who managed to bestow upon its rivals the 2nd defeat of the season.
On 1 and 8 April, Benfica were paired with Liverpool in a two-legged quarterfinal matchup in the 2009–10 UEFA Europa League. In Lisbon at the Estádio da Luz, Benfica defeated the English club 2–1 on 1 April. However, despite the positive result in the first leg of the matchup, Benfica was defeated by a score of 4–1 in Liverpool's Anfield Stadium.
On 13 April 2010 in the Lisbon Derby, Benfica played another important match against "capital rivals" Sporting. The match began with Sporting creating more goal opportunities in the first half. Given Benfica's poor tactics, Jorge Jesus replaced Éder Luis with Pablo Aimar. This substitution helped to dramactically improve Benfica's play-making abilities. During the match, Fábio Coentrão placed the ball in the penalty area for Óscar Cardozo to score. Later on, Pablo Aimar, after a great pass from Ramires, managed to score the 2nd goal for Benfica.
On 9 May 2010, Benfica won their final match against Rio Ave and became the Champion of the 2009–2010 Season. Óscar Cardozo scored twice in the game, which made him the top scorer of the season with 26 goals. At the end of the season, Benfica finished 5 points ahead of runner-up, SC Braga (the best result that Braga has had in the history of their football club), with 76 points out of a possible 90. During the 2009–10 Portuguese Liga, Benfica recorded 24 victories, 4 draws and 2 defeats, with 78 goals scored and only 20 allowed. As the 2009–10 Portuguese Liga Champions, Benfica secured their direct entry into the Group Stage of the 2010-11 UEFA Champions League