Saïd Benrahma – The Joker in the Transfer Pack?

Up until one week ago, the name Saïd Benrahma was one that Chelsea fans in general were only vaguely aware of. The 24-year-old Algerian has enjoyed a stellar time in West London at Griffin Park as Brentford have firmly cemented themselves within the upper echelons of the Championship, scoring goals, creating chances and embarrassing opponents with a dazzling array of tricks, flicks and skills.

With La Gazette Du Fennec reporting that Frank Lampard and Chelsea are interested in acquiring Benrahma’s services in the summer window, we took a closer look at the player to establish their strengths and weaknesses and whether they would be a good fit.

Firstly, let’s take a very broad look at Benrahma’s numbers in comparison to other top attackers in world football.

Unsurprisingly, Benrahma trails a little behind the other global superstars in the list but to even be registering numbers similar to these players is immensely impressive. Additionally, Benrahma’s numbers are impressive when compared to other attacking players at Stamford Bridge.

However, it’s worth noting that the difference between the top of the Championship and bottom half of the Premier League is not necessarily so different, and players that star in the Championship – such as Jack Grealish or James Maddison – can sometimes make the step up to the Premier League. Of course, recently the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United have both enjoyed impressive seasons following their promotion to the Premier League.

An equally interesting direct comparison can be made by comparing Benrahma’s season to date with Mason Mount’s loan deal at Derby County last year.

When comparing the two players in this case, Benrahma’s numbers trump the EngLishman in almost every case. It’s only completed ninety minute where Mount takes the win, with Benrahma averaging a goal or an assist just under every other match. Although Mount does appear to go the distance more than the Algerian, it’s worth noting Brentford have a stronger squad overall than Derby – they can look to Ollie Watkins, Bryan Mbuemo or even Josh Da Silva if they need creativity when Benrahma is not performing to his best.

There’s no question whether Benrahma has the talent to play at the top level, but previously his temperament has been called into question. He left OCG Nice at a young age after accusations of immaturity prevented him getting a chance to properly break into the first team for Les Aigles. It seems after several seasons under the tutelage of Thomas Frank (and also Dean Smith), the player has matured in terms of physical and mental endurance.

He is now ready to take a step up – the time that Brentford have invested into the young star has paid off. As the below chart shows, he is a consistent menace going forward and frequently launches into mazy dribbles, winning fouls in the middle and attacking third.

However, it’s worth noting that signing Benrahma will not necessarily be an easy feat for Chelsea, or any English club. Brentford, although dwarfed in size by their West London counterparts are notoriously tough negotiators. Furthermore, almost every top team from the Premier League, as well as other European giants like AC Milan have paid a visit to Griffin Park to cast a watchful eye over the next wave of stars wearing the iconic red-and-white stripes.

It does seem fair to suggest that there might well be something in the rumours regarding Lampard’s interest in Benrahma. He’s seen first-hand what the playmaker can do (having previously managed Derby County) and with Chelsea expecting to lose both Pedro and Willian due to their contracts expiring this summer, it seems apt that Benrahma might be viewed as a cheaper option to the likes of Jadon Sancho or Jesus Corona. If Chelsea need to prioritise spending elsewhere, such as bringing in a top young striker to compete with Tammy Abraham, or a top quality left back, Benrahma might be a cheaper option to prise away.

What is perhaps more interesting is that the newspaper, La Gazette Du Fennec have direct access to Benrahma’s own entourage and family – the player even did a lengthy podcast with them last year. When looking at previous coverage of the player, frequently they have broken stories about the Algerian which have come true shortly afterwards, long before any other publications can report on it. According to Transfermarkt, Benrahma only recently changed agents to USM; a company that do not have any Algerians on their team. Consequently, it appears even more likely that any stories about Benrahma are provided or leaked directly from himself or his family unit, ignoring the fact an agent change usually signifies this anyway.

There is also a creeping sense of inevitability at Griffin Park regarding Benrahma’s fate. Although no-one will directly admit it, there is an acceptance that Benrahma has outgrown the Championship and his own ambitions lie at the top end of the Premier League. Aston Villa tried to acquire the services of the talented wide-man last summer, making several bids throughout the transfer window.

At the end of the window, around £15m was placed on the table according to reports, which was swatted away by the Brentford hierarchy, much to the disappointment of the player.

How did Brentford manage to turn the player’s head back around? A combined charm offensive of encouraging him to stay for the final emotional year at Griffin Park, a feeling that Brentford are ready to push for promotion to the Premier League after several years of building a strong squad – it’s possible Benrahma’s final act might be getting his club promoted from the Championship as the season concludes after the Coronavirus break – and also the symbolic number 10 shirt; iconic for playmakers, but also especially important for Benrahma as it was his father’s number when he played.

Benrahma is very close to his family unit and understandably, he took time off to grieve when his father passed away earlier this year. When he came back, he put in a stunning performance.

Hull 1-5 Brentford, Sky Bet Championship, 01/02/20

With a mutual agreement in place that Benrahma will get a chance to leave if the right offer is placed on the table, it suggests this deal might be easier than some other transfers as the player is clearly keen on the move. So how much might it cost?

This is where it gets a bit more complicated. Brentford will want top value for a star player who has several years on his contract (plus an optional one-year extension) and a figure around £25 million seems to be accepted as fair. It’s worth noting a very similar amount was quoted in the La Gazette du Fennec article. Furthermore, Brentford started off valuing their previous talisman, Neal Maupay at a similar figure before he was eventually sold to Brighton & Hove Albion last season. In previous transfers such as that of Romaine Sawyers and Neal Maupay (who joined West Bromwich Albion and Brighton respectively) Brentford have shown that they will not simply block moves for no reason and if players have a good season (or seasons) at the club, they do tend to leave provided the team can make a good profit in any deal.

Is there anything that could disrupt a potential deal for Benrahma? Brentford have two further crown jewels, French U21 star Bryan Mbuemo and Championship Golden Boot contender Ollie Watkins, and it seems unlikely that they’d let all three players (or even two) leave in the same window, especially as Brentford will get a good price for any of them. Mbuemo has been tenuously linked to Lyon as a replacement for Memphis Depay if the Dutchman does choose to leave Les Gones, but having only played a single season for the Bees, it seems unlikely that the Frenchman will be allowed to leave unless an unbelievable offer comes in.

If Saïd Benrahma does leave Brentford for new pastures this summer, no deal will happen without Brentford getting value for money and also having secured the successor for his position. Brentford’s recruitment strategy has always been that nobody is irreplaceable and they have scoured across Scandinavia, the lower leagues in England and across Europe for bargains. This so far has worked brilliantly with acquistions like Neal Maupay, Bryan Mbuemo, Rico Henry and Andre Gray all impressing. There will no doubt be a name ready to step into Watkin’s shoes if he does go. It’s worth remember that transfers are a long process and by the time you pick up the phone and finalise, 80% of the work has already been done.

I’ll be doing a further article on how transfers and transfer fees work so look out for that.

Some concluding thoughts on Benrahma: , it seems likely that the Algerian will end up leaving Brentford this summer, but will he be staying in West London? As the nature of all transfers, it’s currently impossible to tell, but it certainly seems like this rumour isn’t just errant speculation based on the evidence so far.

Only time will tell if it materialises into a concrete deal. There is no doubting that Benrahma is a talent and perhaps he just needs a chance to showcase it at the top level to really start flying like his national teammate, Riyad Mahrez.

Written by Robert Pratley


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