Friday, 13 April 2012

Rumour Mill: X-Rated Tackler Part Of Double Raid on European Giants?

It isn't just newspapers that carry (make up) the biggest pieces of transfer speculation, a whole host of websites also make it their job to cobble together some of the most scurrilous rumours that you could ever wish to find, and one of the leading lights (worst offenders) in this is Tribal Football, or Tribull Football as it is more commonly known.  This time though they might be onto something as they report that David Platt flew out recently to watch the players in question.

Quite why he needed to do that I am unsure since the team in question were Benfica, who were recently at Stamford Bridge, but I suppose money is no object so a return to Lisbon would probably not disappoint.  The game he watched was the Lisbon derby (Sporting triumphed 1-0) and the players he was there to watch were Spanish midfielder Javi Garcia and Belgian utility man Axel Witsel, the aforementioned x-rated tackler.

Both players are more often than not used in central midfield, Garcia, however has also been used at the heart of the defence, and Witsel, known for his combative attitude has also been deployed on the right side at numerous points in his career.  Garcia began life at Real Madrid, but soon moved onto Osasuna where he began to develop, he then returned to the Spanish capital but soon became surplus to requirements thus triggering his move to Benfica.  The player has been linked to numerous English clubs for quite a period of time with Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United supposedly interested in his services.  Interestingly he signed a new deal with the Portueguese club in March, signing up until 2018, but whether this was just a way to boost his transfer value come the Summer is unclear.  

The 25 year old would clearly not come cheap, and considering his position there are other people I would prefer us to make a move for first, and I am sure that the City hierarchy feel the same way, as a backup plan I have no complaints but I would rather see us move for Javi Martinez or even long term Arsenal target Yann M'Vila, if moves for these should fall through, Garcia would be a good addition to our midfield.

Onto Witsel, a truly controversial player in the past.  When he was at his former club, Standard Liege, he formed a pretty impressive midfield partnership with Steven Defour and Marouane Fellaini.  Great things were expect of the trio and Witsel was the last to leave, moving to Benfica at the start of this season.  During his time in his homeland the 23 year old gained a reputation for his hard, almost aggressive tackling, the red cards followed and the player was widely criticised for lacking self control.  His most infamous dismissal resulted in a 3 month ban after he broke the ankle (assaulted) of Anderlecht defender Marcin Wasilewski, seriously look it up on youtube, its pretty vile.  Unfortunately for Witsel after his ban, he was sent off again against Anderlecht for another particularly brutal challenge.  Things got no better when he received his 3rd set of marching orders against Cercle Brugge for another shocking tackle on Brazilian Renato Neto.

Clearly there were many questions about the players temperament and seeming lack of control, in fact these doubts overshadowed what a superb prospect he appeared to be.  Since he moved to Benfica he seems to have improved his attitude, and has impressed greatly being viewed as one of the best players in Portugal.  If it weren't for the questions over his attitude and professionalism he would have moved to the Premier League a long time ago, he has been courted by Manchester United and it would now appear that City are showing interest as well as Chelsea. 

When I wrote recently about Nigel De Jong I said that he filled a vital role in some ways, we need that bulldog in the middle of the pitch to get about and win the ball back, but in other ways he didn't have the all round game that we needed.  Witsel would be an upgrade on that should be manage to curb his aggression.  He has the energy and ability to win the ball but he also has the technical ability to then use it in a more meaningful way than the Dutchman can currently.  

Any move for these 2 would not be straight forward, obviously when you are looking at bringing in players of this quality you will face competition and it is no difference in this case.  Of the 2, I would be incredibly interested in Witsel should he continue to control himself on the pitch, as for Garcia, well he is a good player but there are other options out there that I would rather see us pursue.

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