Yesterday morning, news broke that Manchester United were to meet Benfica representatives over the possible signing of Swedish centre-half, Victor Lindelöf. The reported sum is expected to be in the region of £38 million, and while many have scoffed at this price-tag for a relatively unknown and unproven player, over in Portugal many would consider this to be a good bit of business for United.
Who is Victor Lindelof?
Representatives from the Portuguese giants met with United’s chief executive Ed Woodward in Manchester on Monday and a deal is said to be edging ever-nearer. Can Lindelöf cut it in the Premier League? Does he warrant the extravagant price-tag?
Previous clubs: Vasteras SK (2010-2011), Benfica (2011-present).
International record: 11 games, 1 goal.
Strengths: Versatility, composure on the ball and timing his tackles to near perfection.
Weaknesses: His passing range and ability. While his composure is unquestionable, the Swede has been known to be a little too eager to hoof the ball clear.
Lindelöf began his career in his native nation and hometown with Vasteras SK, along with a handful of small, local Swedish teams. Vasteras themselves were also a relatively small side, playing in the third tier of Swedish football at the time. The centre-half accumulated 41 appearances for the club during his two-year tenure there, before he was snapped up by Benfica at the age of 17 in 2011.
He was initially assigned to their youth team, Benfica B, but after a couple of years and a string of impressive performances, he was soon promoted to the senior side. He made his debut for the Águias in October 2013. First-team opportunities came few and far between at first, but he soon got his chance.
After injuries pushed him higher up the pecking order, Lindelöf finally broke into the first-team mid-way through last season. He and fellow superstar, Renato Sanches, led Benfica to 13 wins in their last 14 games to snatch the Primeira Liga title from under the noses of rivals Sporting Lisbon by two points.
Lindelöf was given the nickname ‘The Iceman’ by the Benfica fans later that season due to his confident, powerful displays in the run-up to the title win. He continued his form into the new season and has been a starter ever since. He has racked up a total of 49 appearances for the Portuguese side so far, with one goal to his name, too.
His commanding displays haven’t gone unnoticed, as he earned a call-up to the senior national side in 2016. He also was selected in Sweden’s Euro 2016 squad, where he started all of their three group games, playing as a right-back.
Premier League Suitability
Many have compared Lindelöf’s style of play to that of a young Rio Ferdinand. His uncanny ability to remain calm even when on the biggest of stages, twinned with his dominance in the tackle, has drawn many comparisons to the former United defender. The Iceman’s ability to time challenges and not dive in too recklessly is also impressive, as he’s yet to be carded this season, and only received five yellows last year.
Lindelöf’s strength and superiority in the air will see him acclimatise to the physicality of the Premier League very quickly. His passing will need a fair bit of work, but it’s something that will only improve with experience and some work on the training ground. Other than his passing abilities, it’s fair to say that he is one of the most well-rounded young defenders in the game right now.
Who’s said what
Many popular people in and around Manchester United have had their say on the Swede, and arguably no one knows his value and ability as well as Sweden captain and current United striker, Zlatan Ibrahimović. He said: “I think Victor is doing great things, he is playing good for Benfica, he gets a lot of responsibility for the national team now, he is growing. It’s up to him what he wants and what the situation says. I know he is hot on the market so let him make the right choice.”
Former 1999 United treble winner and fellow Swede Jesper Blomqvist also had his say, claiming that the comparisons to Rio Ferdinand are fair but he’s not “at their level yet, but he is very capable of getting there.”
Right now, Manchester United need cover at the back more than ever. Eric Bailly is set to jet off to Gabon in January for the African Cup of Nations, and while Phil Jones and Marcus Rojo have struck up an unlikely partnership at the back, injuries can hit at any time.
If Lindelöf were to sign, he wouldn’t rot on the bench or the reserves, that’s for sure. He’s proven before that he can step up when needed, and when the opportunity arises at United, expect him to take it with both hands.