Spanish side Real Betis Balompié have secured one of the bargain transfer deals of the summer by signing the talented French midfielder Nabil Fekir from Lyon. The 26-year-old attacking midfielder, of Algerian descent, penned a four year deal with Los Verdiblancos worth just €20m, with an extra €10m in various performance-related installments. It represents a notable coup for the Andalusians.
A World Cup winner with France just a year ago as the biggest feather in his cap, Fekir brings a weaponry of footballing talent to his armory. A gifted dead-ball specialist with an eye for the spectacular. (See his effort against Paris Saint-Germain for an exhibition in outstanding free kick delivery).
In Lyon’s third game of the 2017-18 Ligue 1 season, he brilliantly netted from the halfway line against Bordeaux, showing the visionary and his fine ability with the ball. A player who brings an inventive style of play with his trickery and elusiveness being his forte - capable to wriggle out of small spaces still in total possession of the ball thanks to his intelligent awareness. A player with verticality, who likes to carry the ball from deep and maraud forward into the opposition box with his gift of a left wand.
A classy and cool finisher in one-on-one situations with the keeper, he also has a great knack of key assists with his creative killer-splitting defensive passes. His dynamism with his tremendous ability to dribble means he is a hit with supporters and with that he is able to conjure up an assist or goal from nothing. He is also a versatile player – able to play in any of the attacking positions; left-wing, right-wing, attacking midfield, where he excels the most, a secondary striker and has experienced playing in the out-and-out strikers role.
This time last year, Fekir almost become a Liverpool player – to the extent the player posed with the club’s shirt at a photo shoot and conducted an interview with Liverpool’s in-house television channel. This all occurred before the deal fell through due to Liverpool’s intention to re-negotiate their original deal with Lyon of €60m after they found issues with a previous knee injury of his - that despite him passing all the requisite medical examinations.
The player, born and bred in Lyon and a product of their academy since the age of 12, played for six successful seasons at the Ligue 1 outfit, and was handed the captaincy for the past two seasons, bringing leadership as well as trickery. Fekir was part of their Champions League campaign last season – scoring with aplomb against Manchester City. Indeed, Fekir has a wealth of European experience with 30 appearances in both the Champions League and Europa League, scoring ten goals, with seven assists to his name.
In his time with Lyon, he appeared in 145 league matches, scoring 54 goals. An impressive ratio from the French marksman. Last season he scored nine goals in 29 league appearances however, his best season to date was the previous year – plundering 18 goals in just 29 games for his second double-figured haul of league goals of his career.
During his time in France, he was recognized by being named Ligue 1’s Young Player of the Year for the 2014-15 season and twice secured a place in the prestigious Ligue 1 Team of the Year, awarded in both the 2014/15 and 2017/18 campaigns.
It clearly represents a fantastic bit of business for Betis, who have arguably found a readymade replacement of the outgoing Giovani Lo Celso. The exceptional Argentine will be sorely missed at Betis after a fine season however, the signing of the talented Frenchman will soften the blow considerably.
For those who doubt Fekir’s ambition to swap a Champions League club with a team not in European action this season, bear in mind that Betis are a big club in their own right – housing the 4th largest stadium in La Liga with their Benito Villamarín a vast 60,721 capacity. Betis are also known to possess one of the most passionate supporters base in the country. Fekir is coming to a club where football goes beyond football – where football is a pure and passionate religion and emotive feeling, and its players are treated as royalty.
The deal for Fekir is also allied to the fact his younger brother, 22-year-old winger Yassin Fekir, will join the club too – with the idea of him being loaned out to a club based in the Segunda División with Cádiz mooted as a possible destination. Ideal for the sibling Fekir brothers being a stones throw away in proximity from one another.
A lot of fanfare and excitement brings Nabi Fekir to Real Betis and he will want to put his best foot forward to ensure he is the new jewel of the Betis crown.