Manchester United have finally got their man. Jose Mourinho has managed to agree on a deal to bring 22-year-old Swedish centre back Victor Lindelöf to Old Trafford from Benfica, for a fee reported by ESPN to be around £30.75 million.
The man with twelve national team caps arrived in Manchester United recently to complete his medical and sign on the dotted line, joining former teammate Ederson as the second player to leave Benfica for Manchester this summer.
Here in Sweden, excitement is high, as it always is when one of their stars joins a big club, especially if that big clubs plays in the Premier League.
Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet noted that Lindelöf begins at home, when announcing the Premier League fixtures, they love to have a player who they can focus and lavish attention on.
Every story in the Swedish paper about United begins with ‘Lindelöf’s United’ as it did last season with Zlatan. But who is Victor Lindelöf? And why have Manchester United been willing to part with such a significant fee for the defender?
Lindelöf began his career at his hometown club Västerås, a relatively small city of around 150,000 people. The club were most recently in Sweden’s top division in 1997 but since then have bounced around somewhere between the second and third tier.
Lindelöf entered their academy in 2007 when he was 13 years old and worked his way up to the first team, making his first appearance at just 16 years old. He was part of the squad that won promotion back to the Swedish second tier and then played 27 games at that level despite his tender age. This put him on the radar of some of Europe’s big clubs and led to him signing for Benfica in 2011.
Lindelöf did not immediately make the first team but worked his way up through their youth teams and into their B side who play in Portugal’s second division.
He excelled at that level and in the 2013-14 season made his debut for the club. Since then he has become a major fixture in the Águias side playing 15 games last season and 32 this one in the Primera League as well as in 12 Champions League fixtures in those two seasons. Lindelöf has won three league titles and two Portuguese Cups in Portugal.
He has continued to grow and improve, and his performances in Portugal caught the eye of the Swedish national team. When the 2015 U21 European Championships rolled around, he originally wasn’t slated to travel. However, Emil Krafth was injured, and Lindelöf took his place.
He was a revelation in the tournament, playing at right-back instead of his usual centre-back position, and was included in the team of the tournament as Sweden won the whole thing.
His progression has continued, and he has now played 12 times for the national team, including last Friday against France where he was excellent.
Manchester United then, were willing to pay so much for him, owing to the fact he has done supremely well in a harsh environment at Benfica, has international experience and has played in major European games including against German giants Bayern Munich.
On top of this, he has excellent natural abilities; he is strong in the tackle and relatively quick.
Also, he reads the game excellently and is great with the ball at his feet.
He is also wonderful at forging defensive partnerships; he has a great understanding with Benfica’s Luisao and Mourinho will be hoping he can do the same with Bailly at Manchester United. If those two hit it off, we could be seeing another Vidic and Ferdinand and I have no doubt Lindelöf will be a hit at Old Trafford.