Manchester United Transfers: Scouting Report for Nicolas Gaitan
The rumours regarding Nicolas Gaitan's impending summer move to Manchester United are rife.
With both player and agent expressing interest in securing the deal, it seems a formality as Sir Alex Ferguson agrees a fee with the Benfica supremo.
He's an interesting player, one United fans saw up close and personal during the UEFA Champions League group stages this season, and represents a skillful attacking outlet.
Here is a scouting report on Gaitan, detailing everything you need to know about the Argentinian midfielder.
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Name: Osvaldo Nicolas Fabian Gaitan
Position: Left winger, right winger, central attacking midfielder
Club History: Boca Juniors (2008-2010), Benfica (2010-Present)
Gaitan signed for Benfica under a price tag of €8.4 million to replace the Real Madrid-bound Angel Di Maria.
He's formed a deadly attacking trio with Javier Saviola and Pablo Aimar, and the South American connection continues to run strong with Paraguyan striker Oscar Cardozo.
Gaitan lit up the world with his impressive performances throughout the UEFA Champions League this season and is now a wanted man.
Taca da Liga 2011, 2012 (Benfica)
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Versatile across the attacking midfield line
Gaitan is someone you could easily see interchanging positions with Ashley Young and Nani across the advanced midfield line.
He is actually more comfortable on the touchline than in the middle of the park, but his good first touch and close control allows him to make an impact centrally.
Whether he's in the box, just outside or five yards wide of it, Gaitan will threaten the goalkeeper. He's not been a machine when scoring this season, but certainly has the ability to do the unexpected and flummox the 'keeper.
Good centre of gravity
Despite his small stature—5'7" in height with a lightweight figure—it is not that easy to knock Gaitan off the ball. He can truck a tackle through sheer perseverance and thanks to his low-to-the-ground build. Think Sergio Aguero.
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Balance in a side is important and something many do not take notice of. With Ryan Giggs slowing down, there are precious few players in the Manchester United side with a left foot.
Gaitan is very left-footed (but not solely so) and would maintain the balance Giggs has given Sir Alex Ferguson's midfield for years.
Comfort in possession
A by-product of his stocky build and versatility is his ability to be perfectly happy on the ball. After watching his side go down to Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao—two ball-hungry sides who are relentless in retaining it—Fergie will be looking to acquire some players who can emulate that level of control.
Gaitan is comfortable anywhere on the pitch in possession and doesn't waste on the ball like many incisive players in his mould do.
Inability to play in a flat four
Gaitan is an offensive player who plays his best football beyond the flat midfield four line that Sir Alex Ferguson usually utilises.
He's comfortable on either touch line in an Angel Di Maria-esque role, or through the middle like the countless attacking playmakers we've seen. Since that role on the Benfica team is usually filled by Pablo Aimar, Gaitan has made the chalk his home.
If you sat him next to a fellow central midfielder and asked him to play in direct correlation with him, however, he'd struggle. It's not his game.
For all his attacking genius, Gaitan's defensive contribution is negligible. In that sense, he doesn't look a typical Fergie player. The Red Devils have seen Ryan Giggs, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia all track back this season.
It's a side to his game he will have to build.
Comparing Across Manchester United's Midfield
When looking to place Gaitan in Manchester United's midfield, the phrase "more of the same" springs to mind.
He has a few extra qualities, but ultimately he isn't that different to the wide personnel already on the books at Old Trafford and can't be considered an upgrade on Antonio Valencia.
If Sir Alex Ferguson is looking to utilise him, it may just mean the change in formation that's been mooted here on Bleacher Report by Kyle Diller.
He'd have to play in the advanced central role in front of two defensive, controlling midfielders. They have the players to do that, as Michael Carrick, Phil Jones and Paul Scholes are adept at sitting deep.
In this role, Gaitan could flourish. But if the tactical switch doesn't happen, Gaitan could flop.
Comparing Across the Board
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He's definitely not world class or the best option out there, but he's also not going to cost the mega bucks that most would.
He's played most of the season in a wide position (or if played centrally, drifted wide anyway) and his chalk-on-boots style is similar to Angel Di Maria. That's an easy comparison to make since Di Maria was at Benfica before, but they are genuinely very similar.
Again, I'll reiterate that he's very similar to what Manchester United already have. It will take some hard work and a formation change at Old Trafford to see Gaitan hit the levels that will be expected.
Conclusion and Value
Transfermark.co.uk values Gaitan at €15 million euros—a value that seems spot on.
Manchester United will end up paying around that figure should they acquire him this summer, and it would be a good piece of business.
Acquiring Gaitan would help Manchester United compete with the possession-hungry, high-pressing teams such as Barcelona and add a silky, creative outlet in the midfield.
My concerns about his position in the team remain, but at the very least he's an upgrade on Ashley Young.
Please also consider reading my other scout reports: