Will Manchester United be signing SL Benfica defender Victor Lindelof in January? Well, reports have fluctuated for and against the move in the last few weeks but having been left out of Benfica’s squad on more than one occasion recently, the Portuguese press are convinced a deal is not dead.
With that in mind, we spoke to Planet Benfica editor David Pritchett about Lindelof to find out more about the big Swedish centre-back and why Man United fans should be excited at the prospect of signing him.
How much has Victor Lindelof progressed in the last 12 months and how important has he been to Benfica’s success?
Lindelöf has been absolutely vital to Benfica’s success over the past year. Prior to January 2016, he had played just a handful of first-team games, but he was thrust into the limelight after injuries to Luisão and Lisandro López created a vacancy at centre-back. Far from being just a stop-gap, he turned out to be a genuine upgrade on his injured colleagues, producing a string of commanding performances as Benfica won the League and the League Cup, and reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
His progression as a player hasn’t been that visible because his displays were virtually flawless from the moment he broke into the side. That said, he has made a few subtle improvements. At first, he took very few risks on the ball, but now he surges forward whenever he gets the opportunity, often driving past two or three opponents to initiate an attack. His anticipation and reading of the game have also improved with experience, although he has made a few positional errors in recent weeks. Some fans feel that he has been distracted by his impending move to Manchester United, although that is difficult to judge from outside the dressing room.
What sort of defender is he? By that I mean to ask what style does he play with – is he an aggressive defender or somebody who is more reserved?
He is a precious commodity: a rugged centre-back that relishes a physical battle, who can also play football. He is strong in the tackle, imperious in the air, and 100% committed. He may look a little chunky, but he is deceptively quick. The Swede is comfortable in possession and likes to bring the ball out of defence. Although he clearly loves a tackle, Lindelöf is completely composed, and in no way reckless. He is so calm that his teammates have dubbed him ‘The Iceman’, a nickname that has become really popular in Portugal.
The 22-year old can also play at right-back or in defensive midfield, but I’m sure that Mourinho intends to use him in the heart of the defence. An added bonus is that he can operate as a right-sided or left-sided centre-back.
What do the Benfica fans think of Lindelof and what sort of relationship does he have with them?
Lindelöf is the type of player that the fans adore: a bubbly character off the pitch and a real warrior on it. He is happy to interact with them both in person and on social media where he has been known to engage in friendly banter with some supporters, and send signed shirts to others. The fact he speaks Swedish, English and Portuguese has obviously helped. Victor’s girlfriend Maja is also on Twitter and is well worth a follow if you want to know what ‘The Iceman’ keeps in his fridge, watches on TV and what computer games he plays. Call of Duty is a particular favourite, in case you were wondering!
Having watched him at Benfica, what defender do you feel he reminds you of the most?
He is quite unique in that he is a really dogged defender, but at the same time totally serene. Jesper Blomqvist has likened him to Rio Ferdinand, but I can’t quite see the comparison myself. Ferdinand was more elegant on the ball, while Lindelöf has a bit more aggression – albeit controlled aggression – to his game. Gerard Piqué would be a better point of reference, although so far, the Swede hasn’t offered the same goal threat from set-pieces.
What can Man United fans expect from Lindelof if we sign him in January? Is his temperament suited to the Premier League or do you think he’d take a long time to adjust.
If anyone can adapt quickly, it is Lindelöf. He is such an unflappable guy that absolutely nothing seems to faze him. The speed with which he became a key player at the Estádio da Luz is testament to that. Of course the Premier League will be a step up from Portugal’s Primeira Liga, but he has already represented Sweden eleven times and has played ten games in the Champions League, so he has faced some pretty tough opponents. Having Zlatan at Old Trafford should also help him to settle, given that the pair are international teammates.
There has been some controversy regarding clauses in the player’s contract. What is the story there?
The strange thing about this transfer is that Lindelöf was thought to have a €30 million release clause in his contract, and yet United are alleged to be offering around €45 million. It has now been claimed that the €30 million clause does not take effect until the summer, and so it would take a considerably larger sum to sign him this January. But is United’s need for a centre-back so desperate that they would pay an extra 50% to secure the defender’s services immediately?
The other thorny issue is that Benfica are currently embroiled in a dispute with the player’s former team, Västerås Sportklubb. The Swedish club claim that they should have received €275,000 after Lindelöf had played ten competitive games for Benfica, and that they are entitled to 15-20% of any future transfer fee. But Benfica deny this, and Västerås have taken the matter to FIFA. You can read more about this story here.
Thank you to David from Planet Benfica for his time and insight into Victor Lindelof.