As Real Betis gradually slip further away from a top four spot in La Liga, the talk surrounding the transfer of Benat has quietened down – although not as a suggestion that he has lost his spark as a draw for the bigger clubs around Europe.
It was never wide of the mark to suggest Benat may become the next Spanish star to pack his bags and move on to financially “safer” destinations in European football. Of course, it’s been the case for a number of years now, with Juan Mata, David Silva and Santi Cazorla, among others, moving abroad when the first option in either Barcelona or Real Madrid wasn’t immediately available. Going into this summer and with the Premier League title race over, expect to see Benat’s name linked with a number of clubs in England.
The Basque-born midfielder fits the bill for what many are looking for in the Premier League. Benat operates best in the position just between the forwards and the holding midfielder, with all the attributes to take on a variety of roles. His stock was highest towards the end of 2012, having scored the winner against Real Madrid and having his name brought up in discussions as a possible replacement for Javi Martinez at Athletic Bilbao. For all his talents, Benat would not have prevented the disappointing slump Bilbao has felt this season.
That’s not to say he wouldn’t be an excellent buy for leading Premier League clubs. You’re instantly drawn to the situation currently at Chelsea with regards to Frank Lampard and the uncertainty surrounding his future. Even if the midfielder remains at Stamford Bridge into next season, the club will need to address the issue of his long-term replacement. As suggested, Benat has goals in him, and more so than an unnecessary addition on the flanks, the Betis midfielder would fill an obvious need almost immediately.
[cat_link cat=”chelsea” type=”list”]
While at Betis, Benat is unlikely to be under great consideration for a regular spot in the Spanish national team. Incidentally, with Real Madrid looking for a replacement for the ageing Xabi Alonso, Benat is a player in a similar mould to the former Liverpool man, one who can take on the required duties of a top level deep-lying playmaker – more than a hint that he would excel in the Premier League. He dictates the play well, is excellent from range and specifically from free-kicks, and would fit in seamlessly among Chelsea’s current group of attackers.
The player’s release clause currently stands at €20 million, but with his contract running out next season, it’s likely he could be had for less. It’s the first time in many years that Betis have found themselves up among those fighting for European football, and for that it’s understandable that the levels of excitement might not reach the heights associated with Mata or Silva. But at 26, the midfielder is currently ready for the step up ahead of moving into his prime years as a player. The “snub” from Bilbao last year was more to do with Marcelo Bielsa’s personal preference than the player’s ability. It won’t matter, though. Benat is destined for the big time in European football, and there’s no reason why even Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham shouldn’t be attracted to his qualities.
The notable lack of conversation about his future over recent months is indicative of the business end of the season – and that’s the way it should be. Benat, however, will comfortably fall into the category of outstanding Spanish midfielders currently dazzling the Premier League. Benat is about as Spanish as you’ll get in terms of playing style, but with the added grit and tenacity to be a hit in England.