Quiz Neymar (£7.47) on who the biggest bargain in European football is this summer, and the Paris Saint-Germain and Brazil ace will surely reply firmly that it is Nabil Fekir (£1.89). It would be an opinion that few pundits would likely argue with.
“I like Fekir, who plays with Lyon, a lot,” Neymar told Oh My Goal last week. “I love his manner of playing.”
Barely 12 months ago, the man hailed by the former Barcelona ace was on the verge of a €60 million move to Liverpool, yet Real Betis have been the benefactors of a deal that is worth just a third of that up front, with potentially €10m to follow in bonuses and a 20% add-on fee, which is surely where Lyon believe that they will earn their money.
“Except in the case of a huge drama, he’ll go to Betis,” Olivier Blanc, Lyon’s deputy general manager in charge of communication, told AFP. “It will happen.”
The secret has been an open one for weeks, but it is one that is difficult to comprehend. In today’s market, his fee is a snip, while it is astonishing that one of Europe’s heavyweights have not taken a greater interest in the 26-year-old, a player who has arguably yet to hit his peak.
🔴 35 goals in last two seasons.
🔵 21 caps for France.
A year after missing out on a £52m move to Liverpool, Nabil Fekir moves from Lyon to Real Betis for just £17m.
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) July 23, 2019
A large portion of the depreciation in the playmaker’s value can be explained by the fact that he only has a year to run left on his contract, but it is particularly puzzling that a bigger team than Betis were not on the hunt for a man linked with the very best until recently.
The popular reason that has been trotted is has been concern over his physical condition, which is ostensibly why his move to Anfield broke down before the 2018 World Cup, in which he played a role as a substitute.
In reality, this is difficult to digest. Fekir, who has had serious knee trouble in the past, missed little more than a handful of games last season, including a couple at the outset of the campaign, when he was barely back from holiday following his exploits in Russia.
A downturn in form could also explain why the game’s superpowers were not clamouring over his signature, yet he would not be the first player to suffer from inconsistency in the campaign after going deep in an international tournament, particularly towards the end of the season. Additionally, the psychological effect of his failed move to Merseyside must also have taken a toll.
Fekir’s drop off was only a relative one. In 39 games, he still managed 12 goals and nine assists.
Perhaps his high point of the season arrived in September, when he orchestrated Lyon’s spectacular 2-1 win against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Not only did he score one and lay on another, but his industry was phenomenal, competing in more duels than any other player and winning an impressive 61% of them.
He may not have hit such a dizzying high again, but there was surely enough in the performance to suggest to a big team that he remains a player, who in the correct circumstances can be a match winner at any level of the game.
Given he was only on €350,000-per-month – around £80,000-per-week – his wage bill is not one that big clubs will have baulked at. Indeed, L’Equipe reports that he will have his wage almost doubled by the Seville outfit.
His demands to have his brother, Yassin, included in the deal may be off putting to clubs. Indeed, there have been rumours in France that at least part of the reason Nabil’s deal with the Reds broke down was due to family interference.
Yassin, a 22-year-old midfielder of modest standard, is expected to be loaned out to Cadiz, around an hour from Sevilla, for the coming season, though in truth there is little to suggest Betis are investing in him for any reason other than appeasing his brother.
Meanwhile, Nabil’s decision to move to Betis, who finished 10th in Spain last season, has been greeted with incredulity from virtually all quarters, particularly as there was an option to extend his deal with Lyon.
The reasons behind the move may remain mysterious, but Betis have picked themselves up one of Europe’s top talents for a price that is, in today’s market, an absolute bargain.