August 23, 2017

Why Bayer Leverkusen Must Sign Nabil Bentaleb

Even though it seems like it, a transfer is not simply an exchange of player and money between two clubs, but it can cause a chain reaction of movement of personnel to and from a number of clubs to replace departing players. In Bayer Leverkusen a familiar storyline is yet again unfolding; Borussia Mönchengladbach, now armed with tons of Premier League cash from the sale of Granit Xhaka, has signed Christoph Kramer from Die Werkself.

Even though Leverkusen have acted swiftly to sign 28 year-old defensive midfielder Julian Baumgartlinger from Mainz 05, they still seem to be missing someone with true world-class potential in the centre of the pitch. Currently their central midfield options include perennially injured Lars Bender;  Charles Aranguiz, arguably their best signing last summer and fresh from a Copa America championship run; the lively and effective Kevin Kampl, and the aforementioned Baumgartlinger.  (Young Marlon Frey, who appeared (in nine league matches for Leverkusen last season, has been loaned to Kaiserslautern).

While this may be solid crew quite capable of grabbing another Champions league qualifying spot, Leverkusen fans might start to get restless as they have shown good initiative in procuring the signature of sought after forward Kevin Volland early in the summer but for their campaign to be held back by a very good but not great midfield will undo the ambitious transfer work they have done thus far.

This is where Tottenham Hotspurs’ forgotten man Nabil Bentaleb comes to the fore. After having a stellar 2014/2015 season in which he clocked 2,912 minutes playing as a central midfielder capable of slaloming runs past the opposition’s midfield, he was considered to be the next big thing out of Tottenham’s academy. But the meteoric rises of Dele Alli and Eric Dier, the renaissance of Moussa Dembele, the addition of Southhampton central midfielder Victor Wanyama about ten days ago and Bentaleb’s own injury troubles caused the Algerian international to be pushed back into the periphery as others pounced to take his spotlight.

Though it seems that his London adventures have come to an end it certainly doesn’t mean that he can’t go on to be a world-class midfielder. Still only 21 years old, a move elsewhere would definitely be in his interest to increase the chances of playing time.   As a player he is comparable to Borussia Dortmund’s Julian Weigl. Having made his debut for spurs on 22nd December, 2013 against Southampton in the EPL at just 19 years of age, he gradually cemented his place in the first team in the 2013/2014 season.

Bentaleb has a great passing range, is comfortable in possession and a great reader of the game. With his 1.87m frame, his height is an added advantage in both boxes and in aerial duels. Operating as a no.6, much like Weigl, his main priorities are ball retention and snuffing out attacks before they even begin. But Bentaleb also plays a riskier game than his German counterpart as he actively tries to drive past opposition players, offering yet another attacking option.

Although he has just one Premier League goal to his name, Bentaleb’s three assists in all competitions in the 2014/2015 campaign alone isn’t bad for a holding midfielder. However, his ability to tackle is quite poor, especially for a player who usually plays as the deepest central midfielder. His rashness is also a concern as he has been shown 16 yellow cards in three years of professional football but although he has never been sent off for the first team.

These statistics clearly highlight what he could bring into this Leverkusen line-up and remember, this a then 20 year-old playing in the premier league compared to 2 players in their primes. With the tactically astute Roger Schmidt at the helm, Bentaleb could be used as a ‘6’ with Kampl alongside him in a double pivot in the games Leverkusen are expected to dominate in the Bundesliga and DFB Pokal, and can also be used a little higher up the pitch as an ‘8’ in tandem with Aranguiz or Bender when they face tougher teams in the Champions league and Bundesliga.

The English media seem to be reporting that the departure of Bentaleb is increasingly imminent and at least one report a few days ago suggests that he could be available for the range of €8-10 million, a small sum if he lives up to his potential. Leverkusen, who are known for their ability to sign young talents and sell them on for exorbitant fees, cannot miss this opportunity to take their team to the next level and maybe, shake off their ‘Neverkuen’ name once and for all.

The following two tabs change content below.
Noel Shallum is a student living in Sharjah, UAE. His love for football spans a decade amd he found his 'echte liebe' in Dortmund. Would love to learn German someday.