Tuesday 25 July 2017

Who is Victor Lindelof, and will he thrive or flop at Manchester United?

Victor Lindelof has been a long-time target for Manchester United
Victor Lindelof has been a long-time target for Manchester United

JJ Bull

Manchester United have agreed the £31 million transfer of Victor Lindelof from Benfica, making him Jose Mourinho's first signing of summer, but who is he?

THE BASICS

Name: Victor Lindelof

Age: 22 (17/07/1994)

Nationality: Sweden (12 caps)

Position: Primarily a centre-back, Lindelof has also played at right-back and as a defensive midfielder.

Preferred foot: Right, though he can ping passes around with his left.

What's his story?

A youth graduate of Västerås SK, Benfica's strategy of signing highly-rated young players and selling them for huge profit led to them securing the signature of Lindelof in 2011.

The Swede won the Portuguese Under-19s championship the following season as part of the youth team, and was a key player for Benfica B in the Segunda Liga, making his full first team debut in October 2013 against CD Cinfães in the Portuguese Cup.

Lindelof replaced the injured Emil Krafth in Sweden's European Under-21s squad for the championships in 2015 and went on to be named in the team of the tournament, also scoring in the 4-3 penalty shoot-out win against Portugal in the final.

It wasn't until the 2015/16 season that Lindelof really broke through into the starting XI of the full Benfica team, with the defender playing 23 games under Rui Votoria, in the manager's first season at the club. He made his senior Sweden debut in March 2016 against Turkey and played in all three of Sweden's Euro 2016 games after, going on to make 47 appearances for Benfica in 2016/17, winning his third Primeira Liga title in the process.

Lindelof reportedly earned himself the nickname "The Iceman" for his composed nature while at Benfica.

Where does he fit in?

The most likely fit for Lindelof is as part of a new-look centre-back partnership with Eric Bailly. The two are the same age and should complement each other well - Bailly is quick, clears up danger quickly and has a no-nonsense approach to getting rid of the ball when in danger, Lindelof is excellent at anticipating passes and at bringing the ball out from the back while under pressure.

One stays, one goes - a bit like Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, even if it is a little premature to suggest they could reach the heights of that pairing.

Depending on how quickly Lindelof adapts to his new environment, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones may well fall behind him in selection, which could lead to at least one being sold before the transfer window closes in September. That said, United's injury problems last season might make Mourinho consider keeping himself well stocked just in case.

Mourinho clearly has the future in mind and just as Sir Alex Ferguson did, appears to be trying to build his team around a strong centre-back duo. This might not work immediately but if they click and both reach their potential, these two could go onto be United's defence for years to come.

Is he any good?

Absolutely yes. He's not the finished article by a long way - and has looked vulnerable in the Champions League at times against the likes of Borussia Dortmund, who beat Benfica 4-0 - but Lindelof already has 12 caps for Sweden, is an Under-21 European Champion and has won three league and cup doubles with Benfica. He's only 23 in July.

As any successful centre-back must be, Lindelof is strong, quick and works hard. What sets him apart from other players of a similar position is his ability to read the play, often stepping out of the defensive line to intercept the ball before taking the team forward with either a smart forward pass or by dribbling forward himself.

Fans of Football Manager will be familiar with the player - he has been consistently rated as a future world star for several years now and is one of the better rated defenders in the current game. If that doesn't help you out, perhaps FIFA 17's in-game rating might:

What have people said about him?

Fellow Sweden international Zlatan Ibrahimovic commented on rumours linking Lindelof with a move to Old Trafford back in November 2016:

"I think Victor is doing great things, he is playing good for Benfica, he gets a lot of responsibility for the national team now, he is growing.

"Is he good enough for United? I think he’s good enough for the big clubs out there. It’s up to him what he wants and what the situation says."

Ibrahimovic's seal of approval could well have helped Mourinho make his decision. Ex-Sweden manager Lars Lagerback is also a fan:

"I think Lindelof can become a world-class player. I like his attitude, he is fast and effective with good understanding of the game. Sweden have a great prospect for the future."

Telegraph.co.uk

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