As Manchester City prepare to take on Schalke in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie at the Etihad, they will be wary of the threat posed by Nabil Bentaleb.
The Algerian midfielder was the standout player for the German club in the first leg where his two goals had given Schalke an unlikely 2-1 lead which they would ultimately squander in the dying minutes.
His terrific display in the first-leg is just the continuation of what has been an excellent season individually for the Algerian at the Bundesliga club. The two goals against City have taken Bentaleb’s tally for the season to eight across all competitions for Schalke.
The 2018-19 campaign is not just a flash in the pan from Bentaleb who was impressive last season for Schalke as well where he scored four goals and grabbed three assists in all competitions.
The midfielder’s goal output has been on an upward trajectory since arriving at the German club in 2016. A prolific goal-scoring option from midfield is a precious commodity in professional football and players of such calibre are rare.
Still only 24, Bentaleb continues to blossom into a complete midfielder and makes one wonder why Tottenham let him go in the first place. Coming up through the youth ranks at White Hart Lane, Bentaleb was one of Mauricio Pochettino’s trusted lieutenants in midfield in the Argentine manager’s first season in charge of Tottenham.
A budding partnership with Ryan Mason had Bentaleb’s star rise rapidly and before long, Liverpool were coming calling for his signature. That led Tottenham to hand the midfielder a new five-year contract and it looked like Bentaleb would be a mainstay at the North London club for years to come.
However, an ankle injury in the subsequent season saw Bentaleb fall behind the pecking order to Moussa Dembele, Dele Alli and Eric Dier and it was a setback from which his Tottenham career never recovered.
This subsequently led to a breakdown in relationship between Pochettino and Bentaleb and that was ultimately what forced Tottenham’s hand before a permanent transfer to Schalke.
After seeing the force in midfield Bentaleb has developed to ever since, Tottenham and Pochettino might well be wishing that things had turned out differently.