Newcastle are in advanced talks to sign Lille’s promising defender Sven Botman. The Magpies are said to have edged AC Milan in the race to land the Dutch defender with the player now open to the possibilities of playing in the Premier League.
Newcastle United have been tracking Botman since the start of the January transfer window with the player not convinced by the club’s project but five months on the line, the Dutch defender seems to have been swung by Eddie Howe’s vision for the club. Even Lille were not willing to sell the player in January as they wanted to push for a European finish but with time to reshuffle the squad and scout out suitable replacements this summer, his exit now seems inevitable.
Signing a player with Botman’s talents would be a huge win for incoming new transfer chief, Dan Ashworth, who is naturally keen to hit the ground running. Having been brought up in the prestigious Ajax academy, Botman made a mark in Eredivisie when he left the club to go out on loan to SC Heerenveen – a mid-table club, with a strong history of providing a platform for players who are just beginning to start out their professional career. Botman shone here playing every possible minute of the truncated Eredivisie season, racking up 2,340 at the heart of Heerenveen’s defence.
RISE TO FAME
Lille’s infamous sporting director Luis Campos was so impressed by his loan spell that the club notched up €8m to sign him. And it proved to be a great decision with the defender guiding Lille to their first league title since 2011, piping giants Paris St. Germain by a single point. Their clubs across Europe took notice of this incredible Lille team with Botman now on the radar of every major European club.
Even in a transition year where manager Christophe Galtier left for the newly rich Nice and players like Mike Maignan, Boubakary Soumaré & Jonathan Ikoné all leaving the club for around €50m, Botman decided to stick around to play consistently in the first team. Even though the team’s performance went down Botman managed to keep performing well and now the likes of Newcastle, AC Milan and Arsenal are all said to be interested in his services.
BUT WHAT KIND OF A PLAYER IS SVEN BOTMAN
Having done his footballing education in Amsterdam, Botman’s level of technical skills are second to none. His two-footedness naturally helps by a good distributor of the ball and also he has an excellent first touch. He steps into midfield to create overloads, both as a passer and receiver. After receiving the ball the Dutch defender’s first instinct is to move the ball forward and seeks to break lines with crisp passes to access advanced teammates.
Standing at 6ft 3in, Sven easily is able to dominate a world of football where strikers are now seem to be going to be smaller in size with football managers preferring players who can move around swiftly rather than have a striker who is more likely to be a target man. Botman is decent in the air winning 3 aerial duels per game compared to his Dutch compatriot Virgil van Dijk’s 4 per game who is considered to be a god when it comes to dominating the ball in the air. He is always alert and in control of his surroundings, a quality which is seen to be very important in a central defender.
HOW WILL NEWCASTLE BENEFIT BY SIGNING BOTMAN
Newcastle United will be signing a top talent who has a high ceiling. While the Magpies’ current centre pairing of Fabian Schar and Dan Burn ended the season in great form, simply put they are both players who can be upgraded. If Newcastle’s new owners have ambitions to play European football in the 2023-24 season then they must look for options which take them there. While Burn and Schar have years of experience in playing in the Premier League they are not used to playing the big European matches, something Botman has already done at Lille playing 13 matches in UEFA Europa and Champions League. It is not much but considering that is a professional footballer for only three seasons it is pretty impressive.
With Sven’s incredible physical gifts there are some limitations that arise due to them as well. He does not have the athleticism to contain quicker attackers. His mobility gets limited due to his size: he lacks the agility and acceleration to match quick changes of direction and speed, and as a result, struggles to control the ball-carrier and prevent a cross or pass.
He has some problems defending wide channels, meaning if his full-backs get caught in a counterattack while bombing up the pitch, the Dutch defender finds some difficulties covering up his teammates, but those concerns will be put to rest as Newcastle have confirmed their intentions to buy Matt Targett and that helps Botman as Matt is not the most adventurous of full-backs.
All in all, Newcastle are making the right decision in investing in Botman and in a few years’ time whatever transfer the Magpies pay to get him will end up looking like a bargain.