Benfica have been heavily linked with Colombian striker Miguel Borja, who made his international debut this week. To learn more about the Copa Libertadores winning hitman, we spoke to South American football expert Jordan Russell, editor of The Fantasista.
Miguel Ángel Borja Hernández was born on January 26th 1993 in Tierralta, a town and municipality in Northern Colombia. He plies his trade with Medellín giants Atlético Nacional, and is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the most prolific marksmen in world football. His impressive contribution during the latter stages of his side's historic 2016 Copa Libertadores triumph brought him to the attention of numerous clubs who, financially at least, can offer him greater guarantees than he has at present. Borja made his international debut on November 10th 2016, in a World Cup qualifier against Chile.
To say Borja is purely a goalscorer would be unfair, as it would do a disservice to the intelligence of his runs and his almost uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time. Crucially, he offers a mobile presence in attack and is physically capable of holding his own against the toughest of defences. Given his willingness to work hard for the good of the team, he offers all that a modern day number 9 should.
Only five players have scored as many or more than Miguel Borja in 2016: Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Robert Lewandowski. With 39 goals in all competitions this calendar year, Borja has earned comparisons to many great strikers, both past and present. With such impressive numbers, Borja now deserves the chance to prove he belongs alongside these elite calibre players.
Borja is a natural finisher, it really is as simple as that. He has a useful knack of scoring goals at the most crucial moments and you really cannot put a price on quality like that. Vitally, he has proven himself to be a big game player with his displays in the latter stages of last season’s Copa Libertadores. The fact that he scored five goals in just four appearances speaks volume for his ability to adapt quickly to new surroundings, meaning that he could be a worthwhile investment for a side such as Benfica who will be looking to build on a terrific start to this season's Liga NOS.
It is difficult to pinpoint a weakness in Borja's game. Although he is not blessed with electric pace, he is still more than capable of leaving defenders trailing in his wake. Like many South American exports, the only real question that exists is whether or not he can adapt to the demands of European football and a different culture. An ill-fated stint with Italian club Livorno from 2013 to 2014 will do little to pacify the doubters, but he is a completely different player from those days. Now, there is absolutely no doubting his talent or his ability to score goals.
According to Jorge Nicola of Yahoo Esportes, Brazilian giants Palmeiras are also interested in securing Borja's services in time for the start of the next Campeonato Paulista. Having raised significant funds via the sale of Gabriel Jesus to Manchester City, the São Paulo club are expected to invest heavily in a new striker. However, O Verdão are also looking into the possibility of signing Atlético Mineiro's Lucas Pratto, which could leave the coast clear for Benfica to get their man. Atlético Madrid and an unnamed Chinese club are also interested in the Colombian forward.
Borja is unlikely to cost more than €8 million. Rightly or wrongly, given their economic situation, that is just about the maximum that the Colombian side can realistically demand. The price could rise somewhat depending on whether rival clubs decide to make counter offers. Less than €10 million is definitely a bargain for a player who has racked up such a stunning goal tally this year.
How he would fit in at Benfica
The 23-year old has been deployed in the lone-striker role in several variations of Reinaldo Rueda's 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 formations. Though this differs from Rui Vitória's typical 4-4-2 setup, it is hard to imagine a natural goalscorer such as Borja not settling into Benfica's system of play. He thrives upon his side playing at a high tempo, as he has proved during his time with El Verde. Playing alongside a strike partner would arguably complement rather than suppress his goalscoring instincts.
Likelihood of a move to Lisbon
6/10. According to O Jogo reporter Bruno Andrade, Benfica President Luís Filipe Vieira was in Colombia last week aiming to negotiate a deal to sign Borja. Allegedly, Vieira would refuse to pay any more than €10 million. Benfica may already have stolen a march on their rivals, but there is always the risk of being outmuscled by wealthier clubs.
Full name: Miguel Ángel Borja Hernández
DOB: January 26th 1993 (Age 23)
Club: Atlético Nacional
Position: Centre forward
Height: 1.83 m
Preferred foot: Right