Lars Bender had his breakthrough season in the Bundesliga in 2011/2012 when he started all 28 games for Bayer Leverkusen. The German international is now being linked with a move to Manchester United where he would be used to protect the back four as a defensively minded player that United currently don’t have.
His stats suggest that he could become a very special player over the next few years and United need to weigh up whether it’s worth paying top dollar for the 23-year-old or seeking out a more obscure alternative. Firstly, Bender doesn’t seem to have any fitness problems. He has consistently picked to start which tells United he’s reliable and takes good care of himself.
He breaks up the play very well and has given away 18 fouls for Bayer Leverkusen this season. He effectively sits in the middle of the pitch and takes apart any counter attack with precision. He’s done this for club and country with three starts for Germany and five substitute appearances this year alone.
The overwhelming stat that United should be focusing on is the fact that he has only picked up two yellow cards this season one for Bayer Leverkusen and one for Germany. This suggests that technically he is a superb player and a player who reads the game very well. In a world where referees are all too willing to whip out a red card for an overly aggressive challenge, this is very important.
United are blessed with talented players in possession of the ball in the midfield. Signing Bender would allow them to stick his name on the team sheet and effectively build the midfield from that point because they know his stats suggest he is reliable and will stay fit for longer periods.
This can have a beneficial effect on Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Shinji Kagawa, Anderson, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes who will all be competing for the other midfield spaces throughout the season. Rotation means that all of them will stay fresh and the fact Bender is a defensive player means they don’t have to resist their natural attacking urges.
So he has something special, there is little doubt over his consistency and quality but playing for United is a different animal compared to Bayer Leverkusen. The Premier League is a much more physical league than the Bundesliga so United need to be sure that he is good enough to cope with the physical presence from opposition players who will effectively be looking to kick him off the ball.
United should consider signing him because he is relatively affordable and versatile. He would appeal to Sir Alex Ferguson because he can also play at right back where he has done for Bayer Leverkusen on more than one occasion. The problem is that the valuation for the player may become inflated as Bayer Leverkusen are thought to hold Bender in much higher regard than another United target, Victor Wanyama of Celtic.
United need that enforcer in their midfield, that missing piece of the puzzle and this gifted German youngster could be the answer.
image: © Paolo Camera