Nabil Bentaleb Faces Biggest Challenge Of His Career


Nabil Bentaleb faces the biggest challenge of his career as Algeria play Germany in the last-16 of the World Cup in Brazil.

Nabil Bentaleb has had an astonishing six months. On 13th December, 2013 he played for the Tottenham Under-21 team who lost to Fulham, having been a regular member of the team in the opening months of the season. His potential had been recognised by Andre Villas-Boas as he had listed Bentaleb as a Tottenham substitute for Cup tie against Hull City at the end of October but the young midfield player didn’t get an opportunity to come on.

In December, two days after his appearance for the U-21 team against Fulham, Spurs lost heavily to Liverpool and the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas followed quickly after. Tim Sherwood who had responsibility for the Under-21s and the Development squad was put in temporary charge and for his first Premier League game at Southampton he named Bentaleb in the squad and included him among the substitutes.

In the 50th minute, Mousa Dembele had to come off with an injury but with Etienne Capoue and Lewis Holtby on the bench, Sherwood opted for the 19-year-old, Bentaleb. Shortly after he came on, Tottenham took the lead and although Southampton equalised, Spurs scored again to take the three points and Bentaleb impressed with his industry and composure in midfield.

In an article assessing the players in the game against Southampton, I wrote of Nabil Bentaleb,

The young French player displayed confidence and the team didn’t suffer for his introduction. He was involved in the early stages of the goal which gave Spurs the lead shortly after he came on and later didn’t shirk challenges and was constantly involved in midfield. His introduction showed the benefit of Sherwood having worked with the Development squad, he knows the young players and their capabilities.

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After further substitute appearances against West Brom and at Old Trafford, Bentaleb started his first game in the FA Cup tie against Arsenal. It wasn’t the best of displays by player or team but Bentaleb retained his place and had a memorable first start in the Premier League the following weekend against Crystal Palace. He worked tirelessly and was unfortunate not to score when a drive hit the inside of both posts but bounced out to safety. Bentaleb started 9 consecutive matches until the end of February and after sitting out a couple was again a regular until the end of March. In that period Bentaleb started ahead of internationals, Paulinho, Dembele, Sandro and Capoue.

International Preference

I feel Algerian

During this time it was suggested by David Ginola that Bentaleb could be included in the France squad for he World Cup. When it came to an international team, Bentaleb opted not for his country of birth but for Algeria who had also qualified for the Finals in Brazil. He made his international debut in March and scored his first goal against Romania in June prior to the World Cup Finals. In Brazil, Bentaleb has helped Algeria qualify for the last-16 from a group containing Belgium, Russia and South Korea. Unfortunate to lose to Belgium they defeated South Korea and held Russia to a draw to secure second place in the group.

Now Nabil Bentaleb and Algeria face Germany who defeated Portugal and USA and drew with Ghana. It is the biggest game in Bentaleb’s fledgling career and is a massive step up from playing against the Fulham Under-21 team at the end of 2013 when appearing in the World Cup Finals is something he wouldn’t even have been considering at that time.

Tim Sherwood on Nabil Bentaleb

More from World Cup

Tim Sherwood’s preference of playing Bentaleb ahead of more experienced international players at Tottenham was one of the ‘issues’ during his time in charge at White Hart Lane. Players with World Cup ambitions were displeased not to be playing and supporters questioned the continuous presence of Bentaleb in the team.

Tim Sherwood in his column in The Independent had praise for Nabil Bentaleb’s performances in the Word Cup. He described the Tottenham midfielder’s rise as “incredible” and wrote,

"I see the same determination in him that first day he came in to Spurs for a trial. He had hunger and desire in training. His work ethic was fantastic. From the development sides right into the first team he showed everyone the way…..He really cares. Nabil is not afraid of anyone."

Sherwood described Bentaleb as being perfect for the way Algeria play and knows that he has he is still in the early stages of his development as a player and needs regular football.

"He is perfect for the way that Algeria play, with a pressing game. He still needs to develop and is not the finished article yet but in the future he could be that kind of goalscoring midfielder. If Mauricio Pochettino is looking for that sort of player, then Nabil is perfect. He has to play regularly, though, if his development is to continue."

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