Date:Friday February 22 2008
I'm sure you are aware of the stories linking us with a move for Lyon sensation Karim Benzema. The press reckon that the 20-year-old striker's great goal against United on Wednesday made Fergie even more determined to land him.
It looks certain that it is not mere speculation. Though I know Benzema said he would stay at Lyon until they won the Champions League, that will not happen in the near future - and certainly not this season I think. But with comments as this, it's clear he is happy to help his club raise his price.
Jean-Michel Aulas, president of Lyon, already met Fergie when the boss undertook a scouting mission to watch our Champions League opponents in the flesh and it's certain that the subject of our interest in Benzema came about in the conversation.
Now, the French president is an expert negotiator, as Fergie himself acknowledged a few weeks ago. He can extract vast millions from reluctant buyers, as he demonstrated in the case of Michael Essien, Mahamadou Diarra, Eric Abidal, Florent Malouda... and a 20-year-old wonderkid is certainly worth a great amount of money, much to Aulas's joy.
Is he worth it? Should we enter a long and protracted transfer saga that it will doubtless turn into for this boy? According to our own players, yes. Rio Ferdinand admitted he gave them a very, very difficult time and Patrice Evra tipped him to become as good as the great Zidane was, possibly without the headbutting.
Though I'm not an expert scout, I'd like to share my views on the probability of the boy reaching such heights of quality. I've seen a fair few Lyon games this season as I tried to watch them as often as possible since we've learned United would play them in the Champions League.
His most obvious quality is cruel, instinctive finishing, that's what brought him more than 20 goals this season so far. He's a good header of the ball, has a powerful and accurate shot (demonstrated on Wednesday...) and is gifted with impressive composure.
On Wednesday, when I paid him great attention, so did Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. A relatively inexperienced striker against one of the best centre-back pairings in the world? No chance you would say but unfortunately, he had the qualities to trouble them.
He dropped deep whenever possible, to ask for the ball so he could find space to exploit. As United kept it as tight as they could, these runs did not cause as much trouble as they could have done if we had been more adventureous.
But he also possesses a quality which, I must say, only Carlos Tevez boasts in the current squad. Samuel Eto'o, an expert among the guild of strikers, confessed that it was Henrik Larsson who taught him how to become invisible to defenders and then pounce at the right moment. Tevez, as he demonstrated that time and time again, has that quality (his goal at Anfield and at Lyon are testaments to that) but so has Benzema.
Thus there were periods when I was struggling to locate him on the pitch but then appeared out of nowhere to wreak some havoc as the attention of our centre-backs was drawn to other menaces. He flashed a shot over the bar from a very good position after such an 'invisible' period. His goal though was not yielded by this attribute: it was down to wonderful control and composure. Quite simply, he was surrounded by four players yet they had no chance of closing him down let alone tackling him such was the speed and the quality of his movement.
His weakness? Inexperience. I could not detect anything else, really. If you saw notable deficiencies in his game, feel free to enlighten me. Until you do, I'd say forget about Berbatov and others and as the papers suggest, do all that is possible to prise him away from the grasp of the French champions. Before his supposedly preferred target Milan do so.
Date:Friday February 22 2008
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