This summer, DZfoot offers you a series of articles specifically dedicated to the Greens of the world. This time it’s up to Ismaël Bennacer to be the center of all attention.
A paradox has existed in Algeria for some time: if the passion of our nation for football is recognized by everyone and if the talent of our youth teams is palpable, the realization of this observation, for its part, leaves something to be desired.
For such a footballing country, the record is deplorable: only 2 African Cups won out of 3 finals played, only 4 World Cup participations in the round of 16 of best result (apart from the particular case of 1982), such a record is not acceptable for a national team that must have the legitimate ambition to integrate the gratin of world football.
This gratin, Ismaël Bennacer seems to be increasingly part of it. At 24, the Milan midfielder is a confirmed player, versatile, talented and in any case ready to take a step forward, which a transfer to Liverpool could allow him. A very high level player profile, therefore, of which Algeria can be proud.
Quick but not in a hurry
If today is the joy of the Milanese, Bennacer was initially not destined to play in Italy. Born in Arles, he plays in Arles-Avignon, a short-lived formation (later to become AC Arlésien) which passed through the French Ligue 1. Like many talents from the PACA region (from the famous League of the Mediterranean), he supports Olympique de Marseille but knows that the Marseille club is clearly not known for allowing its youngsters to grow.
The young Franco-Algerian-Moroccan needs this fulfillment through play. He has played in CFA2 (French 5th division) with the Arles-Avignon reserve since the age of 15 and has also played 5 Ligue 2 games with the club. His talent was such that he immediately received proposals from prestigious clubs and these offers, combined with the great crisis experienced by Arles, made him decide to refuse the first professional contract he had been promised.
Francophone, he decided to join Arsenal rather than Manchester City due to the presence of Arsène Wenger and the large contingent of French-speaking players available to the London club at the time. Bennacer was then 18 and if he only plays one and only one professional match with the Gunners (in the League Cup), he will see Algeria getting close to him very quickly.
The need for progression as the only horizon
However, Bennacer is not ready to evolve with the Greens but this trinational, which he played as a young player with France, is a hope of European football that Mohamed Raouraoua does not want to lose. Milovan Rajevac gives him 7 minutes of play during an official match (qualifying for the African Cup of Nations) against Lesotho, 4 September 2016. Enough to make him an international, then, but also to definitively repel his father’s country Morocco.
Bennacer’s progress requires, even if Arsenal want to keep him, that he leave England to get time to play. He moved on to the Tour, the family club of the French Ligue 2, and there he immediately imposed himself despite his arrival in January, which is never easy for a young element.In 6 months he proves to recruiters that his small profile (1’74, quite rare for a defensive midfielder) is ready for the high level.
Clearly not inclined to find Arsenal’s reserve, he was transferred to Empoli, then resident in Italian Serie B, to continue his progress there. The player is as promising as the man is serious and mature. Married at a very young age, Bennacer is known for his reserved but strong character, especially on the pitch, and he is not one of those who neglect the importance of a healthy lifestyle for a professional footballer.
In Italy the left-handed breaks everything. He simply plays all the games of his club (except for the suspension for accumulated yellow cards), including the last 18 Serie B games where he plays all the games in its entirety. Tireless, he also rediscovered the national team on 7 October 2017 against … Cameroon, already. He lost the game, during which he only played half an hour, and his coach was then Lucas Alcaraz. With the exception of CAN 2018, where he will not play a single minute, Bennacer has already become undisputed in the selection and will never leave again.
In society his performances will have been such (even with 2 goals and 4 assists) to allow his team to return immediately to Serie A. Bennacer will then show himself back there more than at the required level while Empoli will immediately raise . He also surprises observers with his ability to carry danger in an offensive way. His shots are as heavy as they are precise, he knows how to take set pieces, he has an excellent vision of the game and a quality of passing well above the average, which makes him the modern midfielder par excellence.
In the selection, his coach is now called Djamel Belmadi, and then a certain 2019 Africa Cup takes place. During this, his talent shines in front of the world. He is fast, he is technical, he is incredibly powerful compared to his size, he knows how to defend, he knows how to attack, shines and shines until he is finally voted best player in the competition where it is usually attackers who collect praise and collect trophies.
Recognized at the highest levels for what he is, Ismaël Bennacer launches a new challenge by joining a sleeping colossus, Milan, for over 17 million euros. The project is simple: first win back the Champions League, then a Scudetto in Italy, and return to being a superpower within 5 years.
A stop, again?
If he suffers any injuries, especially in the 2020-2021 season, the progress is astounding: Bennacer is adored by the Milan fans for his altruism and undeniable technical qualities; he brought Milan back to the Europa League and then to the Champions League and then, finally, he won the first Rossoneri Scudetto since 2011. Clearly a feat, given that Inter and Juventus seemed better equipped for big challenges. Milan, very attached to him, is doing everything to expand it and offer him to continue growing together.
Remained indispensable and undisputed in the selection, he is one of those on which Djamel Belmadi relies to rebuild a great national team, he who is one of the few not to have disappointed during the double duel against Cameroon. At the club level he is obviously still an important part of Milan, even if he faces competition from the promising Tonali. However, and for the first time since joining Paolo Maldini’s side, a transfer seems possible as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are looking for a top-flight midfielder. Time to take another step, or rather to continue growing in Italy?