It's January, so it's time to speculate about various transfer targets. Some of the players we're going to highlight will be unrealistic for us to obtain. Some of them will be very realistic, but not actually on the team's radar screen. Some might even be purchased.
If you're new to the site, we've done "Daniel Levy's imaginary shortlist" before. The gist of it is that the site's writers talk about a given player that we could conceivably want to sign, tell you a bit about him, then make an assessment about how realistic a deal is. We're not rumor mongering, just doing a bit of analysis.
First up is Beñat, the Real Betis star and occasional Spanish international.
Name: Beñat Etxebarria Urkiaga
Team: Real Betis
League: La Liga (Spain)
Primary position: Central midfield
Can also play: Defensive midfield, attacking midfield
Beñat is one of Europe's most versatile midfielders. He's known for his dead ball striking and his passing range, but he's not bad getting forward or in the tackle. His regular position and Betis' playing style should not be a consideration for any team looking to sign him.
While Beñat is a bit of a late bloomer compared to most footballers, he's certainly cemented himself as one of Spain's top midfielders, and he's performed at a consistent enough level over the last two-and-a-half seasons that no one doubts his ability or writes him off as a one-year wonder. He's the real deal, even if it took him until his mid-20s to establish himself as a star.
He's played five La Liga games this season as the more attack-minded player in the double pivot of a 4-2-3-1, but is usually a more box-to-box player in a 4-4-2 or one of three midfielders in a 4-3-3 for Real Betis. He is sound defensively, but is almost always deployed next to a midfielder more defensive than him.
He's been linked to Chelsea, and We Ain't Got No History wrote about him recently. While Graham was putting this post together, we had a conversation about Beñat's skills and what type of comparison we'd make to current or former Premier League players. We came up with a combination between Mousa Dembele and Luka Modric. I'll just paste that paragraph from Graham's post, since I half-wrote it anyway.
The best comp I can come up with for Benat is a hybrid between Moussa Dembele and Luka Modric. He's certainly not a midfield general, but he's a top passer, able to sit deep and hit through-balls for the strikers to chase. He's also capable of going forward to great effect and pulls his weight defensively with sensible positioning.
He's not quite as good at getting forward as Dembele, but better than Modric. He's a better passer from deep than Dembele, but not as good as Modric.
If Andre Villas-Boas still thinks he needs a passing midfielder in the mould of a Joao Moutinho, I think that Beñat would be a slightly better option, and he should be available at a similar price.
Likely price: €20m
Probability that valuation is wrong: Next to zero. Betis are fighting for top four in Spain, and €20m is Beñat's release clause.
Team's willingness to sell: Very low, but he has a release clause.
Fit at Tottenham Hotspur: Excellent.
Possibility he ends up at Spurs: Probably small if Chelsea are interested, but if Chelsea aren't interested? Who knows. Spurs are obviously a club with a growing reputation at this point, and Beñat's current club isn't a giant in world football at the point. It would be a step up for him, but he might be looking for a bigger step up if he leaves Betis. If Manchester United aren't interested, they probably should be.
Grade if this transfer goes through at likely price: A