Reports are gathering pace that Rodrigo Bentancur’s performance for Uruguay this summer has piqued Arsenal’s interest.
Of course, there have been many players in the past who have dazzled in the summer tournaments only to disappoint after earning a big move in the ensuing months. Bentancur has arguably already earned his big move though. Last summer saw him switch Boca Juniors for Juventus in a deal worth around £8 million.
Massimiliano Allegri’s policy of slowly integrating promising young players into his team meant many of Bentancur’s 20 Serie A appearances came as a substitute last season. However, he has started to establish himself at the old lady and was undoubtedly one of the most exciting prospects to emerge from the World Cup.
But can the South American live up to this promise or could he prove to be the Kleberson of 2018?
The summer of much love
As a key figure during each of his nation’s five matches in Russia, there was certainly much more to Bentancur than just his yellow boots.
The skilful midfielder oozed confidence on the ball and while he only picked up a solitary assist for his efforts, he was instrumental to Óscar Tabárez’s side.
His two yellow cards and the reckless challenge on Corentin Tolisso which led to France’s opening goal and, in turn, La Celeste’s exit add a cautionary note.
It was fitting that a player who has been lauded as coming of age in this World Cup spent his 21st birthday leading his country to an impressive 3-0 win over hosts, Russia.
If he can maintain this upward trajectory, why would the Italian’s want to let him slip through their fingers?
A better deal for Juventus?
When he arrived in Turin last summer as part of a deal which saw Carlos Tevez head in the opposite direction, Bentancur was loudly hailed as the successor to Paul Pogba.
While they both occupy a central midfield position, this comparison is wide of the mark. Bentancur is a highly versatile player but plays better from a deep-lying position than anywhere else.
At Juventus, Bentancur is directly competing for his place in the team with Miralem Pjanic and Claudio Marchisio, two players at the peak of their respective careers. He will hope to put pressure on both as the season unfolds.
There were also many rumours at the beginning of this year that Juventus were in negotiations with Boca Juniors to buy out the 50% sell-on clause that was inserted into his transfer deal.
While speculation of a January sale was quickly swatted aside by the Italians, could they have been paving the way for a future deal?
The South American connection
Arsenal are a club who have long been linked with making a move for Bentancur. Having watched him progress through the ranks in Buenos Aires, their interest in the midfielder runs far deeper than just his exploits this summer.
It’s also entirely possible that Bentancur has now reached a stage of his development in which regular football is a must. If Allegri can’t offer this during the coming season at Juventus, a move away would be a very appealing prospect.
The Gunners capturing the signature of Lucas Torreira earlier this month also adds an interesting angle to Unai Emery’s plans with his Islington overhaul.
While defence was undoubtedly the main priority for Emery this summer, central midfield is an area which has also needed his attention.
New season, new manager, new look
The departures of Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla, along with the fact Aaron Ramsey is now heading into the final year of his contract, potentially leaves a shortage of quality options in the heart of his team.
Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny have both inconsistently flourished while youngsters Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Matteo Guendouzi offer promise for the future rather than the present.
Despite deploying a 4-2-3-1 formation with Paris Saint-Germain last season, Emery is known to prefer using a 4-3-3 system.
This is a style which is perfectly suited for Bentancur’s talents and could also explain why there has been an injection of youth and energy into Arsenal’s squad.
Emery is thought to be introducing a high-pressing style into Arsenal’s play this season. With experience added in defence, there will be an onus on his midfielders to cover much grass in the coming months.
A common complaint which has squarely been aimed at Arsenal for several seasons now is that of leaders on the pitch. While Emery’s new defensive additions add this to some extent, there will still be a question mark concerning this elsewhere on the field, with or without Bentancur’s presence.
But do Arsenal really need him? As a player allegedly being tracked by Barcelona – possibly the unnamed Spanish club which reportedly had a January offer turned down by Juventus – Bentancur’s future prospects seem hard to dispute.
Perhaps the biggest question is whether Arsenal can attract such a star-in-the-making on the promise of regular football and a future vision without European football as a make-weight.
If they can, the post-Wenger revolution could be well under way this season.
What do you think? Do Arsenal need Rodrigo Bentancur? Let us know by commenting below.