Scouting Report: Is Simon Kjaer Nemanja Vidic's Successor at Manchester United?

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Scouting Report: Is Simon Kjaer Nemanja Vidic's Successor at Manchester United?
Michel Spingler

Inter Milan-bound Nemanja Vidic played his last-ever UEFA Champions League game in a Manchester United shirt during a 3-1 defeat to Bayern Munich. United need a successor for the centre-back.

One suggested transfer target is Lille's Simon Kjaer, so here is a scouting report on the 25-year-old Danish international.

 

Kjaer Struggled Like Vidic

United signing Vidic from Spartak Moscow for £7.2 million in the 2006 January transfer window, per Ian Winrow at the Telegraph, was met with some curiosity.

DAVE THOMPSON

Vidic was viewed with scepticism coming from an inferior league in Russia.

His inept displays in United's 4-3 defeat to Blackburn Rovers and a 3-0 defeat to Chelsea forced people to ask the question: Did United sign a bust?

Then-Portsmouth player and fellow Serbian Dejan Stefanovic was prescient in his opinion of Vidic.

"Believe me, he [Vidic] can be even better and people will see that," Stefanovic said in 2006, per Amy Lawrence at the Observer (h/t the Guardian).

"He is the sort of player who can score goals as well and he will be a big success for Manchester United."

At the time, Vidic was as inconsistent as Patrice Evra.

"Neither of us started well and we used to say we wanted to leave," Vidic said in 2008, per the Daily Mail. "We can laugh about it now because we have both reached 100 games."

Amid a tough initiation into Premier League football, persistent injuries due to a no-holds-barred approach to defending and countless red cards against Liverpool, Vidic showed his indomitable spirit by becoming one of the greatest centre-backs in Premier League history. 

He is a four-time PFA team of the year member and was the first-ever defender to receive the Premier League player of the season award.

Vidic's story of persevering through adversity is why you should not summarily dismiss the hypothetical scenario of United signing Kjaer because he flopped at Wolfsburg and Roma.

In Kjaer's first season at Wolfsburg, he was ranked as Kicker's 151st best player, 150 places behind Borussia Dortmund centre-back Mats Hummels.

Source: Kicker.de.

Look at No. 140 (Toni Kroos) and No. 147 (Ilkay Gundogan), so give Kjaer the benefit of the doubt, who was trying to cope with then-Wolfsburg manager Felix Magath's take-no-prisoners style of managing.

Kjaer cited difficulties in his relationship with Magath.

"I am not going to call Mr Magath," Kjaer said, per Kicker (h/t Sky Sports). "I will never play under Magath again. It goes without saying that I will not be returning to Wolfsburg."

Kjaer made those comments as a Roma loanee, but he vindicated Magath by being selected in the worst Serie A XI that season, per Sky Italia (in Italian)

Source: Sport.sky.it.

Roma sporting director Walter Sabatini, who knew of Kjaer's potential at Palermo, tried to play down the Dane's error-riddled performances.

"When a 1.90 metre-tall [6'3"] player with blond hair makes mistakes, it is different to when a 1.70 metre-tall player [5'7"] with brown hair makes the same mistakes," Sabatini said, per FIFA.com. "To slip-up in a few games for Roma is not a final sentence."

Roma did not extend Kjaer's loan and he arrived back at Wolfsburg.

He either sat on the bench or was not included in five of Wolfsburg's first eight Bundesliga games of the 2012-13 season under Magath. 

Once Magath was fired, per Stephan Uersfeld at ESPN FC, Kjaer started Wolfsburg's next 11 league games.

His defensive positional misreads were often covered by Wolfsburg goalkeeper Diego Benaglio making extraordinary saves.

While Kjaer was not Roma-bad, he showed little improvement, which was why Wolfsburg cut their losses and sold him to Lille for €2 million, per Reuters.

 

Kjaer's Career-Best Season

It took Kjaer bottoming out for him to sort out his career.

He is filling in big shoes because Aurelien Chedjou, who left for Galatasaray, intercepted 109 passes in his last season at Lille.

Kjaer has been immense in do-or-die circumstances. 

During Lille's 1-0 win over Guingamp, he made a clearance off the line to deny Guingamp centre-forward Christophe Mandanne from scoring.

Source: Ligue1.com.

Two minutes into stoppage time, Lille deep-lying forward Salomon Kalou grabbed a dramatic winner after coming off the bench. 

It shows you how important Kjaer's intervention was, and he was proactive again by blocking Nantes centre-forward Filip Djordjevic's goal-bound effort in Lille's 0-0 draw.

Source: Ligue1.com.

The biggest improvement in Kjaer's game is his positional awareness. 

He consistently manoeuvres opposing players into disadvantageous spots, like shutting down Marseille centre-forward Andre-Pierre Gignac's angle to shoot during Lille's 1-0 win. 

Source: Ligue1.com.

Another strength in Kjaer's game is clearing the ball.

Source: Squawka.com.
Source: Squawka.com.
Source: Squawka.com.
Source: Squawka.com.
Source: Squawka.com.

The centre-back pairing of Kjaer and Marko Basa, combined with the world-class goalkeeping of Vincent Enyeama, is why Lille have the second-best defensive record in Ligue 1 (20 goals conceded in 32 games; second to Paris Saint-Germain's 18 goals conceded in 32 games).

Kjaer is one of the best defenders in Ligue 1 this season. 

Source: Sports.fr

 

Bottom Line 

Lille can choose to hold on to Kjaer as they did with Rio Mavuba, who failed to make the grade at Villarreal and is now a stalwart at Lille, or cash in on Kjaer by selling him to a major club like United.

Player (Year) Buying Club Transfer Fee €/£  Source
       
Eden Hazard (2012) Chelsea €38.7/£32M The Guardian
Michel Bastos (2009) Lyon €18/£14.9M Goal.com
Abdul Kader Keita (2007) Lyon €16/£13.2M FIFA.com 
Lucas Digne (2013) PSG €15/£12.4M Sports Illustrated
Florian Thauvin (2013) Marseille €15/£12.4M Reuters
       

Based on Lille's notable transfers, United are looking at spending around £12-15 million on Kjaer, which will be value for money if he can continue playing at a world-class standard for several seasons like Vidic did at United. 

 

@allanjianga

Statistics via WhoScored.com

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