La Liga

5 La Liga Bargains Benítez Should Target

 • by David Cartlidge
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There are few coaches around who boast such knowledge and an extensive contact list when it comes to La Liga as Rafa Benítez.

It will be no surprise if he dips back into the Spanish market this summer to pick out a few hidden gems – he did a little under 12 months ago to bring in centre-back Florian Lejeuene from Eibar.

And finances tight at Newcastle United, and the prices still relatively low in Spain, it makes the perfect mix for the former Liverpool boss.

We have picked out five players we think Benítez should take a look at when the transfer window opens in May. It wouldn’t be a surprise, however, if they aren’t already on the Spanish coach’s radar.

Portu

Club: Girona
Position: Attacking Midfielder/Second Striker

Undoubtedly one of the revelations of the season, Portu has been instrumental in Girona’s fairytale campaign. He’s a dream player for managers, given he leaves everything on the field and is willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the team.

The 26-year-old is hard working, resilient, strong, quick and a player who with his presence alone can turn an attack into a genuine force.

His ability to drift wide, pull defenders out of position, hold up the ball and maintain the flow of attacks is excellent and he has the look of a a player who would fit seamlessly into a Premier League side.

Portu’s not just about grit and determination however, as he has an eye for a goal and has formed a prolific partnership alongside former Middlesbrough striker Cristhian Stuani. He is lively in and around the penalty area and is able to pounce of any hesitation from a defence.

Per 90 minutes, his expected goals (xG) value currently stands at 0.23 per 90. He’s actually over-performing that, having scored 0.41 per 90.

Benítez could well have his new version of Dirk Kuyt in the Girona man.

Nemanja Radoja

Club: Celta Vigo
Position: Midfielder

The Serbian is an immense presence in midfield, one who not only uses his physical assets to his advantage but can also pick a pass and stitch a team together too.

While his passing range isn’t as extensive as Mikel Merino or Jonjo Shelvey, he is the sort of player who allows those around him to carry out their tasks with more freedom.

Radoja has primarily shown at Celta that he’s capable of protecting a defence, stubbing out attacks before they build momentum. His size and strength proves important, but so too does his intelligence and ability to position himself suitably.

He can release the ball efficiently, and with 86.82 per cent pass accuracy this season in La Liga has shown an ability to help build out from the back.

He might not be the quickest but the 25-year-old reads the game well and has an awareness and understanding of everything that is going on around him.

Martín Montoya

Club: Valencia
Position: Right-back

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Likely to be let go by Valencia in the summer, Newcastle could certainly use Montoya to improve at full-back.

He has been around for sometime but is still only 26. After spells in Portugal and Italy, he returned to Spain with Valencia and has helped the club return to the top four in La Liga.

He’s not been spectacular by any means and at times has become a target for fans, but he hasn’t been a disaster and maybe new surroundings could be beneficial for him.

The right-back is is quick and supports his attack and midfield well, showing the ability to deliver crosses in and also link up with teammates in the final third.

However, he has lapses when defending and the former Barcelona man has drawn the ire of Valencia supporters for lacking concentration. This is not to say he’s a bad player and the good games do outweigh the bad ones.

Despite the negatives, Montoya’s making 2.9 tackles per 90 minutes at Valencia. Out of the players who’ve played 15 or more La Liga matches for Los Che, he’s second only to Geoffrey Kondogbia (3.0). His 2.3 interceptions per 90 leads the way for his club using the same criteria for game time.

A move wouldn’t be a risk for Newcastle as they know they’d be getting a potential starting full-back who has experience and plenty of ability in the role.

Dani García

Club: Eibar
Position: Midfielder

A player who has long been linked with a move to the Magpies has been García, who has been with Eibar as they’ve risen up the league ladder in Spain and never looked out of place.

A tireless, energetic midfielder, García has become synonymous with Los Armeros’ style: humble and hard working. Fans love a player like the 27-year-old because he never relents on the field, puts his body on the line for the team and refuses to give up an inch in any challenge.

García’s particularly good at stopping attacks and protecting his defence, as has been shown by his 2.6 interceptions and 2.7 tackles per 90 this season.

He won’t contribute a great deal on the attacking end and he does have his limitations in the final third, but defensively he’s sound and offers excellent cover should numbers get caught up the field.

That being said, he still boasts an 81.52 per cent passing accuracy this season. Not bad for a player not really seen as supremely technically or creatively gifted.

Fede Cartabia

Club: Deportivo La Coruña
Position: Attacking Midfielder/Winger

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With Deportivo La Coruña looking a shoe-in for relegation this season, the meat will likely be picked off the bones of a rather talented squad. With Newcastle having lacked a spontaneous, creative spark for a number of years, a punt on Cartabia wouldn’t be entirely ridiculous.

This is especially true given Cartabia has matured a lot over recent years, going from a temperamental, frustrating figure to a mature, grounded team performer.

The change in attitude and approach has been astounding to watch in a player extremely gifted on a technical level. Numbers such as his 2.64 tackles per 90 minutes this season would’ve been laughed at a few years ago.

Cartabia, despite curbing his individualistic ways, still retains a sense of unpredictability and brilliance in his game. He can play from a wide role, but also centrally, and drifts about the field elegantly when the ball is at his feet.

He can also drive and dribble at opponents though, creating chances and also opening up for shots himself.

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