The return of the Bundesliga gave us all a delectable taste of normality this weekend.
For the sad-acts among us who find ourselves lost on a Saturday afternoon with no live football buzzing away in the background, the simple act of flicking over to BT Sport to find Eintracht Frankfurt vs Borussia Monchengladbach occupying the evening kick-off slot was like a weight off our shoulders.
It was a good game too. Title-challenging Gladbach set the pace with the quickest goal of the weekend, taking the lead through Alassane Plea after a mere 37 seconds, and went on to pick up a fairly comfortable 3-1 victory.
As it so often has this season under Marco Rose, the Prussian side’s swashbuckling style caught the eye. Their rapid, structured counter-attacks, built around two wide forwards who squeeze the pitch to create space for the overlapping Stefan Lainer and Ramy Bensebaini; forgive the Premier League centrism, but at times, it was like watching Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at their best.
Bensebaini in particular was a stand-out, rampaging down the left to assist Marcus Thuram for goal number two, and watching the Algerian excel at left-back, where Liverpool so desperately need reinforcement, in a system so essentially similar to their own…well, you see where we’re going.
So far, the closest Bensebaini has come to heading to Merseyside were some iffy links with Everton last summer, but it might be time to change that.
Ramy Bensebaini’s game by numbers vs. Eintracht Frankfurt:
5 ball recoveries
4 aerial duels won
2 chances created
2 blocked crosses
Another impressive display. ?? pic.twitter.com/hom9vLFzJr
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) May 16, 2020
The 2019 AFCON winner is by no means Andy Robertson 2.0. In many ways, he’s a completely different defender, who carries with him a completely different threat.
Where Robertson is fleet-footed and dynamic, Bensebaini is diligent and robust; not quite carrying the same explosive pace or crossing ability, but making up for that with his physical presence. His lung-busting assist for Thuram’s goal against Frankfurt, however, showed that the sexier side of his game is a facet he is working on, and improving with every passing week.
It’s the 25-year-old’s debut season in the Bundesliga after arriving from Stade Rennais, and with five goals and three assists in all competitions, it’s already the most efficient attacking season of his career so far.
That’s partly owing to his aerial prowess – see his header against Bayern Munich in December – and partly to his growing reputation as a penalty kick specialist – see his penalty against Bayern Munich in December.
With a bit more work on his crossing ability and threat from wide areas, then, he could naturally blossom into the ideal all-round full-back.
While his defensive mindset perhaps impinges on his attacking contributions, however, it stems from another area of his game which would be of huge benefit to Liverpool: his versatility.
He’ll put in a shift anywhere on the pitch, having been deployed on the left wing and in defensive midfield at one time or another, but Bensebaini started out as a central defender. He hasn’t been asked to play there often at Gladbach, but his defensive instincts are undeniably still present – he could tuck back inside at the drop of a hat.
So I just hopped on Transfermarkt and Ramy Bensebaini has 5 goals and 2 assists in just 12 Bundesliga games.
— James Jukes (@JamesJukes2) May 16, 2020
He’s your Robertson cover and your Dejan Lovren replacement all rolled into one.
Having turned 25 just last month, he’s the median age for a Klopp signing, while the fact that he is still emerging at an elite level means he isn’t likely to demand immediate first-team football.
It’s not as if he would come ridiculously expensive either. Gladbach secured him at a snip of just over £7m in the summer, and while they are likely to demand a pretty steep return, it stands to reason that the Reds would get change out of £30m.
Considering the bulk of that looks set to be made up in departures this summer – Lovren, Xherdan Shaqiri and even Loris Karius among those who will command modest fees should they depart – it looks a reasonably risk free deal.
Nowadays, when assessing whether a player is a viable Liverpool signing, there’s a checklist you should go follow.
1. Do they fill a specific gap within the squad?
2. Are they of the right age and personality profile?
3. Will they cost an exorbitant fee, or demand a stratospheric starting salary?
4. Are they actually good enough?
In the case of Bensebaini, you can get through all of that without a single black mark placed against his name.
Bensebaini looks a quality wing back, very direct, good end product, good in the air and an AFCON winner. Definitely one to watch during this Bundesliga period pic.twitter.com/C3x2TcP3bl
— ?⚪️ (@Clockend_Harry) May 16, 2020
That’s not to say Liverpool are interested – the recruitment team and their tried and tested stat-based approach will know infinitely better than 90min – but if this one pops up in the rumour mill over the next few weeks and months, it should be no surprise.
It just seems to fit.
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