Aston Villa set to approach £16m Juventus star who could be key for Steven Gerrard

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Aston Villa have reportedly made an approach for Juventus’ Rodrigo Bentancur, as Steven Gerrard continues to mould his side in the image he desires.

The 24-year-old has won seven major titles in his career, including three Serie A titles with Juventus. As well as this, he has also recorded 45 appearances for his national side, Uruguay.

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Gerrard outlined this week that he wants players to be competing for positions to maintain high standards in the club and given Bentancur’s profile, he would likely be coming in to challenge the likes of Douglas Luiz. The two players are fairly similar in terms of the template of player, with both of them capable of playing anywhere across the midfield.

Luiz currently operates as the ‘number 6’ or deep lying playmaker ahead of the defence, a position that Bentancur has played in his career but most recently has struggled with.

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His current manager, Massimiliano Allegri spoke about his struggles and where he believes the players best position is whilst working as a pundit last year. He stated: “In my opinion, Bentancur cannot play in front of the defence. He can play a match, but not more. Rodrigo is very good, but in front of the defence he has a playing time of 1-3 [seconds]: he stops, looks and then passes.” whilst speaking to II Bianconero.

Upon his arrival at Juventus, a report from Oldjuve.com states Bentancur was often seen to be the heir to Miralem Pjanic’s role of the “regista” or number 6 ahead of the defence. However, as Allegri’s quotes clearly illustrate, his current manager doesn’t believe he has the capabilities to do this.

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The report goes on to state: “In his first pre-season contest against Barcelona on Sunday, Allegri utilised Bentancur as a box-to-box ahead of regista Ramsey. The Uruguayan had little responsibility in the build-up phase and was tasked with shifting upfield to receive between the lines and make the odd penetrating run in-behind.

“He was Juve’s best performer on the night, producing two standout sequences in the first half that displayed his robustness, dynamism and ability in transition.”

Whilst many Villa fans have outlined the need for Villa to pursue a defensive midfielder that can push Luiz further up the field and cover for Marvelous Nakamba whilst he is injured, Bentancur is seemingly not this player. However, he is someone who could arrive and contribute to the system Gerrard wants to implement immediately.

Across Europe’s top five leagues in the past year, he ranks in the top 15% of midfielders in terms of his pressing, as he averages just over 22 a game. As well as being in the top 10% for interceptions and 14% for tackles in the midfield third. His off the ball work rate is exceptional, something that Gerrard holds in high regard amongst his players.

He is also an exceptional passer of the ball, averaging five progressive passes, five passes to the final third and just under 11 passes whilst under pressure. In the long run, Gerrard will want his side to dominate games and Bentancur could be key in doing this.

The improvements Bentancur would make to this side if he was to compete with Luiz are clear. When comparing the two, the Juventus midfielder exceeds Luiz in pass completion, key passes, pressures, progressive passes, passes under pressure, tackles, interceptions and passes into the final third.

The player looks more suited to playing the current role that Luiz is playing ahead of the defence, given his superior defensive statistics and ability to progress the ball, but has struggled there in the past. In a similar way that Gerrard got the best out of Nakamba, he could get the best from Bentancur and allow the 24-year-old to thrive in the position that Andrea Pirlo and Maurizio Sarri believed he could play.

From his relentless pressure to win the ball back for his side to his passing ability to split the defensive lines and facilitate players such as Ollie Watkins, the signing of the Uruguayan makes sense for the long run image Gerrard has for this side. The fee is reportedly around £16 million, which could prove to be another shrewd bit of business for the Villa owners.

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