Bentaleb and our number 7 prospect Harry Kane actually tied in out voting, but Bentaleb won the tie breaker by virtue of being slightly younger. This midfielder is definitely one to keep an eye on in the coming years.
Who is he?
Nabil Bentaleb is an 18 year-old French midfielder of Algerian descent. He began his youth career at Lille before being released at 15. He then moved to Belgian club Mouscron and then eventually back to France with Dunkerque. After that he went on trial at Birmingham City, but didn't catch on there. Fortunately for Spurs, he impressed our coaches enough to end up signing a contract for Tottenham. He has been capped by France at the U-19 level, but remains open to a call-up from Algeria.
Bentaleb is a central midfielder, but is also comfortable on the left wing (sort of like Luka Modric), or in the hole behind the striker. He's definitely the playmaker in Tottenham's U-21 midfield (when Tom Carroll isn't in the team). Bentaleb played 14 matches for the U-21 team this season and managed to score four goals and add three assists. He also played a good deal with the U-19 team, mostly due to the presence of Tom Carroll in the older team. Bentaleb was, at times, used in the holding midfield role, but it's pretty clear that he lacks the physicality needed for that position, standing 5'8" and weighing 160 lbs.
What can he do?
Bentaleb is, first and foremost, a playmaker. He's a good dribbler and is comfortable with both feet, though he is left footed. He's not particularly pacy, and as mentioned above, he's not very big or strong. Bentaleb does, however, possess a good deal of creativity and flair in the middle of the park and his passing and dribbling are both quite good.
French Football Weekly watched him in a Next Gen Series match and compared him to Adel Taarabt. I think it's a bit of a lazy comparison given that both are French/North African and both are good dribblers in tight spaces. Bentaleb, unlike Taarabt, shows a willingness to pass and involve his teammates in the game. When Bentaleb dribbles you always have the impression that his head is up and he is looking for options other than shooting.
To me, Bentaleb calls to mind a younger, more raw Lewis Holtby. Both are good in close spaces and good passers of the ball. Both work hard to involve their teammates in the game, but sometimes their work rate moves them out of position. Bentaleb definitely needs to improve his tactical awareness as well as continue to get stronger if he's going to be successful in the Premier League.
Where can he go?
Unlike Kane who is ready to participate in the Premier League right now, Bentaleb still needs some development. A loan move in the coming season would certainly do him good. If I had my druthers I'd like to see him go abroad either to Spain, France, Holland, or Belgium. He probably not good enough to play in Ligue 1 or La Liga, but lower divisions in those countries might be good for him.
I really don't see any reason why Bentaleb should go on loan in England. Playing in League One or the Championship isn't going to help his development any. He's just going to get the stuffing kicked out of him. That sort of thing is probably going to retard his development more than "help him adjust to the English style of play".
The Taarabt comparison is probably a little more apt, in terms of the ceiling that Bentaleb has. I think he has the potential to be considerably better than Taarabt, but that completely depends on how Tottenham handle the next couple years of his development. If he gets a useful loan to a club in a league that allows him to play attacking football in a decent league, then this player could certainly grow into a first-team player for Tottenham Hotspur.
Not a member? Join Cartilage Free Captain and start commenting | Follow @CartilageFree on Twitter | Like Cartilage Free Captain on Facebook | Subscribe to our RSS feed