Bayer Leverkusen have signed 19-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder Emre Can on a four-year contract. Could Lars Bender now head to Arsenal, who were reported to have made a bid for him just last month?
The Germany U21 international was regarded as one of the European champions’ finest products to come through their youth ranks after signing from Frankfurt in 2009 but the youngster has failed to force his way through to the first team behind the likes of Holger Badstuber, Javi Martinez, Luis Gustavo and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
With no path in sight to the first team under new manager Pep Guardiola the youngsters moves to Bundesliga rivals Bayer Leverkusen. However, at the Bay Arena he will still be behind Lars Bender, Simon Rolfes and Stefan Reinartz in the pecking order.
The 6ft1” midfielder can operate as either a box-to-box central midfielder or a defensive midfielder and Bender is currently regarded as one of the most talented defensive midfielders in the world at present, aged just 24.
With Can’s arrival, one might be inclined to suggest Bayer Leverkusen are preparing to replace someone who is outgoing – a player with Can’s talent and potential will have likely only moved if he understood he was going to get a better chance of regular first-team starts than he would have in Munich.
Rolfes has been a regular starter for Leverkusen for the past eight seasons at 31 he’s unlikely to retire just yet. Reinartz is the same age as Bender and is considered a fringe player himself behind the other German internationals.
This peculiar addition throws up a slight hint that Lars Bender could be leaving the Bay Arena imminently – he and his twin brother Sven Bender have both been linked with moves to the Premier League this summer with reports suggesting Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea were interested.
Having lost Andre Schurrle this summer to the Blues, it seemed unlikely that Leverkusen would allow another of their star players to defect to England but their new arrival may be an indicator that they are anticipating losing at least one defensive midfielder and, at present, I am unaware that Rolfes and or Reinartz are linked with any other clubs.
The most likely outgoing in that position is Lars Bender but where could he be off to if that is indeed the case? Could he be tempted to follow Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa to Manchester United where, due to Darren Fletcher’s ongoing health problems, only Michael Carrick occupies his preferred position?
Or, perhaps, he’ll be on his way to reunite with Schurrle in Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea squad – the Blues have Ramires, John Obi Mikel and Michael Essien at present but the latter pair have seen little in the way of first-team action are both linked with potential exits at Stamford Bridge.
The most likely destination may well be Arsenal where Arsene Wenger has only Mikel Arteta who he is even remotely able to deploy as a defensive midfielder. The Gunners have been linked Marouane Fellaini and reported launched a bid for Bender in early July.
Wenger has sent out Francis Coquelin on loan, young Emmanuel Frimpong is perpetually injured and lacks experience, Denilson has long gone and Alex Song was sold last summer to Barcelona.
If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say Bender may be on his way to link up with his German teammates Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski at the Emirates – Wenger has promised big name signings and Bender would undoubtedly fit the bill.
Emre Can’s arrival at Bayer Leverkusen remains a mystery but, in my estimation, it’s unusual to sign a highly rated youngster desperate for first-team football when you have at least two quality and experienced internationals currently occupying his position.
image: © tjuel