Ninety minutes of football on the big stage were enough for Muhamed Besic to step out of the shadow and introduce himself to the world. The almost completely anonymous 21-year-old had his first competitive start for Bosnia-Herzegovina at the iconic Maracana last month, occupying the vacant holding midfielder spot in Safet Susic's team.
Even though he was one of the players with the least experience among the Dragons, failing to get any playing time in the qualifiers, Besic imposed himself in the middle and took a key part in the Bosnian system.
The nature of his role left the impression of neutralizing most of Argentina's attacking power, including their captain and superstar Lionel Messi.
Besic eventually lapsed in 65th minute, when Messi outran him and hit the winner, but his overall performance drew the spotlight to the youngster. A sort of hysteria was created back home, where people recognized him as a future leader of the national team, but more important for his career, the display against Argentina—as much as in the following matches versus Nigeria and Iran—made him one of the most wanted young players in Europe.
The fact that Besic plays for Hungarian side Ferencvarosi TC, and that he is available for the estimated bargain price £4 million, made him an easy target for the clubs in Europe's top five leagues.
Days after the Argentina match, Spanish newspaper Marca's Rafa Valero report (via Bosnian outlet Avaz) that Celta Vigo was interested in Besic, but it turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg for him. The names of the clubs were popping up around world media, Valencia mentioned to be the one to win the race.
Goal.com (in Bosnian) claimed that Besic was on his way to the Mestalla to sign a contract. However, that never happened and the focus moved to English football, where a couple of clubs were interested.
West Ham and Tottenham Hotspur were both mentioned, as well as Cardiff City, but as Chris Wathan of Walesonline.co.uk explained, reports in the youngster’s homeland have suggested that Swansea City have reached an agreement over a three-year deal and sealed "a £3.5m swoop for the Ferencvaros ace."
What looked like a done deal ended up as an unexplained collapse, as Bosnian journalist Mirza Dautbegovic reported in a tweet on 9 July.
This opened the door for Everton manager Roberto Martinez, who publicly praised Besic during the World Cup. Various journalists, among them the Greg O'Keeffe of the Liverpool Echo, reported that Everton are closing in on a £4 million-pound deal for the Bosnian prodigy.
The Berlin-born 21-year-old defender began his career with minnows Tennis Borussia Berlin, before moving to Hamburg SV, where he got his first taste of Bundesliga football.
Just five days after he made his first-team debut for Hamburg in November 2010, playing the last 10 minutes against Borussia in Dortmund, Besic became the youngest player to represent Bosnia-Herzegovina. He was just 18 years, 68 days old when he played his first international minutes against Slovakia in Bratislava.
However, his circumstances changed in the next two years, Besic seeing first-team football on just three occasions. In April 2012, German media claimed that Besic had a rough conflict with his coach at the time, Thorsten Fink, who allegedly physically attacked him, per Bild.
That resulted first in a suspension and later in shipping him out on a free transfer to Ferencvaros, where he collected 45 league starts and one goal over the last two seasons.
Obviously, it would be a great move for Besic himself, taking a huge leap from Hungarian football to the English Premier League. But what would this transfer bring to Everton?
Judging by his display in the World Cup, Besic would be a blue-collar-type player in Martinez's team, providing it with hard work at the back and being a sort of backup for Gareth Barry and James McCarthy in an exhausting season packed with fixtures. Besic's work-rate guarantees that he is able to create pressure all around the pitch.
Although Susic presented him to the wider public as a classic holding midfielder, Besic is actually a versatile defender converted to defensive midfielder. For HSV's youth and reserve team he did most of the work as a central back, while at Ferencvaros he has often been used as a right-back.
Hence the impression of experience and safety that he gives off when defending but also the simplicity in his passing game. He has a nice touch, but most often goes for the cleanest and simplest solution. In three World Cup matches he averaged 74.3 passes with a 91 percent success rate, according to WhoScored.com.
Besic is a player that loves to tackle and knows how to do it, giving a tick of aggression to his defending, but sometimes he tends to lose control over it. This is something Martinez would have to find a way to overhaul.
Last season, young Besic collected 12 yellow cards and one sending off, per Soccerway.
A World Cup wonder turning into one-hit wonder is one of the biggest risks when buying in a World Cup year, especially when it comes to players that represent small countries like Bosnia-Herzegovina. But for the bargain price, the general impression with Besic's talent is that he is worth that risk.
He may not be proven at the top level, but given some time to adjust and with proper guidance, Besic could be not just a worthwhile addition to Everton squad, but also a great investment for the future.
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