French World Cup winner Nabil Fekir, once heavily linked with Liverpool, has joined Real Betis from Lyon in one of the most surprising transfers of the window.
So why has the 26-year-old ended up with La Liga’s 10th-placed club rather than the Champions League winners – at a bargain price of £22million.
Sportsmail takes a look at the unlikely turn of events…
Nabil Fekir has joined Real Betis for just £22million in a seemingly bizarre move
SO, WHAT DOES HE DO?
A skilful forward reminiscent of Eden Hazard for the way he can dribble past defenders aided by a dynamic burst of acceleration. Featured in six of France’s seven games last summer as they won the World Cup, and is now leaving Lyon after six successful years with an impressive record of 54 goals and 34 assists in 145 games in Ligue 1. Also scored against Manchester City in last season’s Champions League.
Fekir is a technically-gifted playmaker, whose abilities on the ball are similar to Eden Hazard
The 26-year-old lifted the World Cup trophy with France after they beat Croatia last year
WASN’T HE CLOSE TO SIGNING FOR LIVERPOOL?
Extremely and it’s still a bit of a mystery why he didn’t end up at Anfield. It was widely reported that Lyon and Liverpool had agreed a £53million transfer fee a year ago. ‘He had done photos with the Reds shirt’ according to his agent Jean-Pierre Bernes. He’d also recorded a welcome interview with Liverpool TV.
It’s believed Liverpool then tried to renegotiate the deal after a medical in Paris. Fekir did suffer a serious knee injury in 2015-16, a ruptured cruciate ligament, though hasn’t suffered serious recurring problems since. Bernes claims his client had passed a medical, conceding: ‘The knee was part of it, but not only that.’
Liverpool’s interest cooled significantly from that moment allowing Betis, who are based in the southern Spanish city of Seville, to step in with the player about to run down the final year of his contract in France.
On Monday, they made it clear they weren’t perturbed by injury issues, by posting a picture of Fekir giving the thumbs up after what they described as “the perfect medical examination”.
Fekir sustained a nasty injury and it is thought this played a part in his failed move to Liverpool
Fekir is comforted by France boss Didier Deschamps as he leaves the pitch in September 2015
WILL LIVERPOOL REGRET MISSING OUT?
As European champions, it’s hard to have a go at Jurgen Klopp on anything. He’s got plenty of optioins in midfield and attack; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Keita, Fabinho, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mane, Firmino, Salah, Origi and Brewster competing for six places.
However, Fekir’s ability as a dribbler from the No 10 position is probably something only Mo Salah can replicate, and Liverpool might want to ease the pressure on their Egyptian King after two non-stop seasons for club and country.
How to interpret information gained from a medical can be a more complex matter than people think. The medical can often flag up potential risk points rather than giving clubs a direct Yes or No whether to sign a player.
We don’t know exactly what happened with Fekir and Liverpool but the buying club are within their rights to pull out of a deal or reduce the price if they are unhappy with something. It’s similar to a house buyer seeing unexpected damp in a property, and saying they will only proceed with a deal at a new valuation.
With Liverpool’s vaunted front three in their prime, they are unlikely to be too disappointed
SO WHY ON EARTH HAS HE GONE TO BETIS?
Betis did once break the world transfer record by signing Brazil’s Denilson but that was a long time ago. You wonder why Fekir is going to Seville’s second club when Arsenal were interested to revive his partnership with Lacazette that flourished in Lyon.
Even in Spain, Valencia, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are seen as bigger clubs, let alone Barcelona and Real Madrid. Betis seem to be signing Fekir because Giovanni Lo Celso is joining Spurs.
Perhaps Fekir’s end-of-season form didn’t help him get a bigger club. He failed to score in his last 10 matches and Lyon’s Champions League aspirations were ended by a 5-1 hammering in Barcelona. You suspect Fekir’s star was a lot lower this summer than 12 months ago. Even Lyon, where he was once crowned France’s Young Player of the Year, gave their blessing to his departure when it became clear he wouldn’t sign a new contract to stay beyond next year.
Betis have once broken the world transfer record when they signed Denilson in 1998
Fekir’s poor form at the end of last season might have meant bigger clubs didn’t want him
DIDN’T SOMEONE SAY HE WAS THE NEW MESSI?
Laurent Koscielny, then captain of France, set the bar high in 2016 when he said: ‘Nabil has got huge technical skills. He’s a bit like Messi with his small steps when he runs one-on-one.
France manager Didier Deschamps is a huge admirer of Fekir, putting him in his squad for Russia last year ahead of Alexander Lacazette and Anthony Martial when Dmitri Payet was injured. Fekir came on for Olivier Giroud in the triumphant World Cup final against Croatia.
Fekir, who was also eligible to play international football for Algeria, has hit out that he suffered a post-World Cup hangover last season. ‘My start was not as good as good as I wanted, I was inconsistent,’ he acknowledged. ‘But it’s not the first time I have been criticised. I’ll get back to work.’
Laurent Koscielny once said Fekir played a little bit like Argentine star Lionel Messi
Fekir has hit out at claims he suffered a post-World Cup hangover last season