By Luis Mira | Portuguese Football Editor
Twenty-three-year-old Nicolas Gaitan has reportedly drawn admiring glances from Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson after enjoying a dream start to his second season at Benfica. An Argentina international, Gaitan was signed in the summer of 2010 as a replacement for Angel Di Maria, who had moved to Real Madrid.
Originally a left winger, Gaitan can also play as a central midfielder, a position he filled several times while at Boca Juniors. However, it has been on the right flank that he has flourished this season, with his four assists in the Champions League making him the top provider in the competition.
Despite Manchester United's great start to the campaign, a player of Gaitan's calibre and versatility would certainly fit the bill at Old Trafford. However, the chances of the Argentine leaving the Estadio da Luz in January are very slim, so a summer transfer appears to be the likeliest scenario.
But does the former Boca Juniors starlet have what it takes to be a valuable addition to the side Benfica will take on in the Champions League tonight? We have broken down the midfielder's game and look into his suitability for the Red Devils.
|MENTAL ATTRIBUTES (Marks out of 5)
Gaitan makes up for his lack of experience and aggression with his incredible determination. Very often is he seen as one of Benfica's most active players on the pitch, even during the latter stages of a match.
His performance against Manchester United in September's Champions League contest, in which he picked out a long pass for Oscar Cardozo to score Benfica's goal in a 1-1 draw, showed he does not simply wander the pitch in the big games, something he had already demonstrated in his first season at the club.
Since joining Benfica, the Argentine has shown that he is a good reader of the game and plenty of know-how to position himself effectively, which has allowed him to score some important goals.
|TECHNICAL ATTRIBUTES (Marks out of 5)
Gaitan's dribbling skills are without a doubt his most powerful tool, just like his technique. While he is not as creative as Di Maria, he gives the defenders a hard time and is often seen moving past the opposition players with ease.
Shooting from distance is not Gaitan's forte, but his 12 goals in all competitions since joining Benfica prove he still is a quality finisher from inside the box.
The 23-year-old's pinpoint crossing is one of his biggest assets, but when he is deployed in the middle he can be just as useful with his good passing. Gaitan is not a free-kick specialist, as he only takes set pieces to whip crosses into the box.
One particular aspect that Gaitan has improved are his defensive skills. The Argentine frequently helps at the back, also to set up counter-attacks, and though his tackling is far from being optimal, he gives a solid hand to the backline.
| PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES (Marks out of 5)
|OVERALL||61 / 100
A 1,73 metre tall midfielder, it is without much surprise that Gaitan has not developed his heading to a great level, and he compensates his physical fragilities with his pace and stamina. After making 48 appearances in all competitions last season, he showed he is ready for the demands of European football and that he is not an injury-prone player.
With particular regard to Manchester United, Gaitan could be a quality addition to Sir Alex Ferguson's side, considering that the 23-year-old still has margin for improvement.
The Argentine may not particulary excel in any department, but he is a solid all-rounder, and his ability to play on either flank and in the centre makes him a utility midfielder who can offer a coach a range of different solutions.
However, with United being well served as far as wingers are concerned, following the summer signing of Ashley Young, the €45 million written in Gaitan's release clause should put them out of the race for the star. The Premier League champions could easily find cheaper solutions in the market, and would be better advised to pursue a natural centre midfielder - an area where they really need to strengthen.
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