The news has just broke that we have completed the loan signing of FC Schalke midfielder Nabil Bentaleb.
The former Spurs midfielder, 25, has signed a deal until the end of season, with us having the option to sign him permanently this summer for a reported £8.5m.
When details emerged yesterday that the Algerian international was on Tyneside for a medical, it’s fair to say there were mixed reactions.
The negative ones will point to the fact that Bentaleb has been persona non grata at the German club since April last year, when he was apparently unhappy at the sacking of manager Domenico Tedesco, a coach whom he had a close relationship with. The next coach, interim manager Huub Stevens sent him to train with the youth team due to a poor attitude when the former Spurs man was out of action with a groin injury.
Former Huddersfield manager David Wagner is now in charge at the Bundesliga club and Bentaleb has yet to play his way into Jurgen Klopp’s former assistants plans. This is said to be due to a combination of his relationship with the club’s hierarchy having deteriorated to the point of no return, as well as suffering from a meniscus injury.
The positive ones reference the excellent spell he had before falling out of favour, when he was a key member of the Schalke side that finished Bundesliga runners up in 2017-18, and indeed there are several Schalke fans who believe that they would be a better side with him back in the team.
Bentaleb’s overall record of 19 goals and 9 assists in 100 appearances for Borussia Dortmund’s arch rivals is impressive for a central midfielder, and certainly one of his biggest strengths as a player is his ball retention and mobility.
This is exactly why I personally believe this signing could be a stroke of genius for us! It’s exactly what we need in central midfield.
It’s currently the weakest area of our team. I’m sure some of you will read this and think I’m talking nonsense considering our forwards have 8 goals between them all season, and our lack of goal threat in many games but that is down to the lack of possession and chances created.
While he’s been in good goalscoring form, Shelvey is too immobile and inconsistent, Hayden is a wonderful pro but is limited on the ball, Ki will be 100% moved on and the Longstaff brothers are still very young. I actually hope we loan Matty out for regular game time. Bentaleb has recently played at a higher level of football than any of our other midfielders have, and probably ever will.
Now, while his recent attitude will raise questions, it’s not something I feel we should worry about with this current squad, which is built on togetherness and tenacity. Our lads simply won’t tolerate a disruptive character.
It’s worth pointing out that before his recent troubles, Bentaleb’s career has shown no previous signs of attitude problems, but even if he was to rock the boat, can you see Jamaal Lascelles, Matt Ritchie or Andy Carroll among others putting up with a bad egg? No, me neither.
Interestingly, Bentaleb’s relationship with Tedesco was supposedly down to his former manager’s warm and approachable man management style, something which is definitely one of Steve Bruce’s strengths. If our head coach backs himself to get the best out of this lad then why not. It’s a risk worth taking.
I live in Japan where the Bundesliga gets a lot of TV coverage due to the high number of Japanese internationals who are playing or have played here.
As a football fan I watch it weekly. In Bentaleb’s first season at Schalke in 2016-17, they actually had the Japanese international right back Atsuto Uchida on their books, and subsequently were on TV a lot. He looked a very good player, and the season after that he was superb. From what I’ve seen with my own eyes, and heard/read from Bundesliga fans and journalists, Bruce may have unearthed a little gem.
Watch him in action below: