A new name to be linked with Benfica is Tottenham midfielder Nabil Bentaleb, who is reportedly surplus to requirements at White Hart Lane. To learn more about the player, we spoke to English Benfiquista Pete Domican, who is also a Spurs season ticket holder.
Signed to Tottenham's academy in January 2012, Bentaleb scored four goals in 14 matches for the under-21s. He was given his big break by Tim Sherwood, making his first team debut as a substitute against Southampton in December 2013. He went on to feature in 20 of Spurs' final 27 fixtures that season. Bentaleb continued to play regularly the following season under Mauricio Pochettino, and was an integral part of the side that reached the 2015 League Cup Final. On 6 July 2015, he signed a new five-year contract with the club, although the negotiations were rumoured to have been difficult. Since then he has barely featured, due to a long-term injury and the emergence of Eric Dier. The youngster made just 12 appearances during the 2015/16 season, and following the arrival of Victor Wanyama last month, it seems certain that he will leave this summer.
Bentaleb is a defensive midfielder and is well-suited to the English game, where the midfield is closely contested. He is strong, can keep the ball under pressure, and is able to pick out players in space.
It is always difficult to compare players from two very different leagues, but Samaris, although right-footed, is perhaps the most comparable of the current Benfica players. They are quite similar in terms of their ability and physicality.
His stamina and strength are very good for his age, and he passes the ball well at both short- and long-range. He is intelligent and comfortable on the ball. The Algerian has impressive commitment. He is one of the last players off the training pitch according to Deli Alli, and he hates losing. To quote Tim Sherwood: "He trains like every day is the last day of his life. He cries his eyes out when he loses a five-a-side match. He would die for the club.”
Bentaleb is not the fastest of midfielders. He is poor in the air, and the goals have dried up at senior level. His strained contract negotiations have cast a question mark over his maturity off the pitch. Having said all of this, his demise is probably more a reflection of how radically the side has changed under Pochettino, rather than Bentaleb’s own abilities.
Bentaleb has already been linked with Napoli, PSG and Crystal Palace, as well as Benfica. At 21, he still has plenty of room for development, and interested parties may look at the 2014/15 season as a better indicator of his potential. Until this season, he had all the makings of a Spurs stalwart, and was talked about as a future club captain. A fresh start with a new club could well kickstart his career.
Daniel Levy, the club chairman, is a tough negotiator. Even with the ‘For Sale’ sign well and truly raised, I would expect Levy to be looking for €12-14 million, since there are 4 years left on Bentaleb's contract. Considering his potential, this would be a fair price. According to Record, a season-long loan deal could be on the cards.
How he would fit in at Benfica
Benfica already have Fejsa, Samaris and Celis who can play in the same position, and he is far too experienced to play for Benfica B. I don’t think he would have a problem fitting into Benfica’s style of play, but it is difficult to see the logic of this move unless either Fejsa or Samaris are heading for the exit door.
Likelihood of a move to Lisbon
4/10. Bentaleb has not joined Tottenham on their preseason tour, so his departure looks imminent. After his excellent performance against Benfica at the Estádio da Luz a couple of years ago, their rumoured interest is not altogether surprising. However, given the likely wages and transfer fee, a move elsewhere seems much more likely.
Full name: Nabil Bentaleb
DOB: November 24th 1994 (Age 21)
Club: Tottenham Hotspur
Position: Defensive Midfielder
Height: 1.87 m
Preferred foot: Left