Benfica centre-back Ezequiel Garay is "close to agreeing a deal" with Manchester United, per James Nursey at the Mirror, so could Garay be replaced by Stefan Mitrovic? To cover that scenario, here is a scouting report on Mitrovic, Benfica's 23-year-old Serbian centre-back, who is currently on loan at La Liga club Real Valladolid.
Mitrovic is a 1.90m, 82kg centre-back with the prototypical physical build to succeed in top-flight European football.He is a left-footer who starts as a left-sided centre-back for Valladolid manager Juan Ignacio Martinez. Source: Marca.com and WhoScored.com League Only With Mitrovic Without Mitrovic
Games 10 21
Goals Conceded 13 37
Goals Conceded Per Game 1.3 1.8 Valladolid concede 0.5 less goals when Mitrovic is in the line-up and he has become a pivotal member of Martinez's side.
Mitrovic's gain is Marc Valiente's loss.
Valiente, who was ousted from his centre-back job, has been forced to be the good soldier, only starting two games at centre-back since Valladolid signed Mitrovic on loan from Benfica in the 2014 January transfer window.
Valiente sat on the bench against Getafe (0-0 draw), Elche (2-2 draw), Levante (1-1 draw) and Real Sociedad (1-0 defeat).
When Valiente has started, he has been played out of position at right-back (1-1 draw vs. Rayo Vallecano) and as a defensive midfielder (4-1 defeat vs. Sevilla).
So what led to Valiente losing his starting position?
Take away the 4-1 defeat to Sevilla, Valladolid have only conceded nine goals in nine games with Mitrovic as a starter.
It is a monumental increase in defensive proficiency for Valladolid, a team that have less points (30) than games played (31) in La Liga.
This is why Martinez made the tough call to drop Valiente from starting centre-back to a backup centre-back/emergency fill-in.
Mitrovic reads and reacts well when it comes to making successful clearances under pressure.
- 14-for-14 against Villarreal (1-0 win), per Squawka.com.
- 13-for-13 against Getafe (0-0 draw), per Squawka.com.
- 3-for-3 against Barcelona (1-0 win), per Squawka.com.
When you watch Mitrovic take the ball out of defence, like nonchalantly dribbling past Real Sociedad central attacking midfielder Sergio Canales, it is clear Mitrovic is not flustered when pressed by opposing players.Source: LigaBBVA.com
With Valladolid staving off relegation, Mitrovic has often been called into action in precarious situations.
He successfully blocked Rayo central attacking midfielder Alberto Bueno from shooting on goal after a defensive breakdown resulted in Bueno being in acres of space inside Valladolid's penalty box.Source: LigaBBVA.com
Against Levante, the score was 1-1 in the 90th minute with super-sub Nabil El Zhar dribbling towards Valladolid goalkeeper Diego Marino.
But Mitrovic came to the rescue, shepherding El Zhar away from goal and forcing him to shoot at an acute angle, resulting in an innocuous shot attempt.Source: LigaBBVA.com
Mitrovic has the capability to dictate play from the back, but he needs to improve his long-pass completion percentage (55.7).
If you take out his long passes, his pass completion percentage increases from 81.1 to 87, so he is an excellent short-to-intermediate passer.
It is just the turnovers when making more expansive passes which are holding him back from a passing perspective.
Another concern with Mitrovic is his inefficient tackles (10) to fouls (11) ratio.
He commits challenges where there is no leeway for him to escape conceding a free-kick.
Two such examples were when he obstructed Barca deep-lying forward Lionel Messi and tripping up Rayo right attacking midfielder Ruben Rochina (on loan from Blackburn Rovers).Source: LigaBBVA.comSource: LigaBBVA.com
Mitrovic is on course to be the latest scouting revelation from Benfica.
During the 2011 January transfer window, Benfica sold David Luiz to Chelsea for £21.3 million and Nemanja Matic, per BBC Sport.
In July 2011, Benfica bought 50 percent of Garay's playing rights from Real Madrid for €5.5 (£4.6) million, per InsideSpanishFootball.com.
Fast-forward to 2014, Benfica might sell the in-demand Garay and replace him with the €1.1 million (£910,000) valued Mitrovic.
If Mitrovic continues to improve, in several years' time he could be another example of Benfica turning a no-namer into a star and selling him to a major club at an inflated transfer fee.