This came from a bit out of left field, but then most of the defenders Everton have been linked with this summer so far have not been obvious names.
Stade Rennais centrehalf Ramy Bensebaini is a highly touted young defender that has at various times been linked with bigger clubs but somehow continues to slip under the radar. The Algeria international is two years into a four-year deal with the French side, and was part of a successful backline that saw Rennes finish the season in fifth place and qualify for the Europa League next season.
The Daily Star report ‘exclusively’ that a deal is close to being struck by the two clubs, with the sum of £13.3m (€15m) mentioned and Stuttgart in Germany also competing with the Blues for the player’s signature.
Rennes signed Bensebaini from Algerian club Paradou AC after he did well on two season-long loan spells at Lierse and Montpellier. Les Rouges et Noirs are looking to cash in on the player to build up their squad with the Europa League coming up and youngsters Jérémy Gelin and Joris Gnagnon settling in well as the main defensive pairing.
Bensebaini is only 23 and comes well recommended as a ball-playing central defender who is best utilized with a more physical partner like the stocky Gnagnon. His natural offensive abilities mean he is adept at building play from the back, Bensebaini shows a good passing range. The report goes on to commend him for his positioning, anticipation and recovery speed.
The left-footed defender is versatile, and has been widely used as a left back as well by the French side, but scouting reports insist that his talents are best used at centre back as his positional awareness is severely lacking when he plays fullback.
Much like Ramiro Funes Mori who just left the Blues, Bensebaini quite relishes the crunching tackle which will make him the fan favourite, but has also resulted in disciplinary issues (17 yellows, 2 reds in 76 Ligue 1 games). As is wont with the youth, he makes up for mistakes by throwing himself into a last-ditch tackle, but in a somewhat responsible manner.
Bensebaini has also featured as a defensive midfielder, but once again his 6’2” frame and aerial ability mean he is at best in the backline.
Everton need a Premier League calibre starting centre half right now to play alongside Michael Keane, and spelling the ageing Phil Jagielka. They could also use a youngster with potential that they can groom alongside Mason Holgate and Morgan Feeney. Everything we see about Bensebaini here says that he’s the latter, not the former.
The Blues have been linked with a number of central defenders in the last few weeks, including Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson (link), Croatia’s Domagoj Vida (link), Denmark’s Jannik Vestergaard (link), young Netherlands sensation Matthijs de Ligt (link), Spain’s Juanpe Ramirez (link), Austria’s Aleksandar Dragovic (link), Sweden’s Victor Lindelof (link), France youth international Mouctar Diakhaby (link) among others, so let’s see how this one shakes out.