27-year-old Argentine defender Nicolas Otamendi has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United and it is widely reported that he is keen to leave Valencia. But will this man cure our defensive mess?
Long term target Mats Hummels seems to have taken a U-turn on his previous decisions earlier in the season and instead has decided to persist with his Dortmund career, so Van Gaal has turned his attention to the Argentine, who has established himself as arguably the best centre back in the Spanish league this season.
On Whoscored.com, Otamendi scored 7.59 for the season; the highest of all central defenders in the whole Spanish league, putting him ahead of the high calibre Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and so on. Otamendi was also seventh overall in terms of rating, just below Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar, James Rodriguez, Suarez and Bale. Not just that, but there were only two players who earned more WhoScored man of the match awards than him – no surprises as to who: Messi (25 awards) and Cristiano Ronaldo (17 awards) compared to 7 for Otamendi.
How Would Otamendi Adapt to Life at United?
We know Louis Van Gaal’s philosophy is to keep the ball off the opponents, making many passes and bossing the possession stats. However, this may be Otamendi’s weakness. The Argentine only achieved an 80.3% pass success rate last season; lower than every single Manchester United defender, including the highly criticised Jonny Evans, and he only made an average of 44.6 passes a game.
However, if there is one man that can change and develop Otamendi’s passing game, it’s Louis Van Gaal. Chris Smalling’s pass success rate went from 82.7% to an 88.7%, exemplifying the effect the Dutchman can have on his players.
So what are Otamendi’s main strengths? Well in a nutshell, he’s brave, reads the game well, and can be a leader in the back four alongside the constantly improving Chris Smalling. And although he’s not the tallest for a centre half at 6 foot, he has an impressive leap on him and has drawn comparisons to the once brilliant ex-Valencian and fellow Argentine Roberto Ayala. Otamendi would add intelligence alongside Smalling – arguably not the quality Phil Jones is best known for, and looks increasingly like the key to ending our defensive chaos.