Having already seen Federico Mancuello and Matías Pisano leave the Estadio Libertadores de América in this window, Independiente will be loathed to lose any more of their starting eleven. However, the club’s resolve may well be tested with the news that Turkish giants, Galatasaray have offered €8 million for 21-year-old Martín Benítez.
Under Mauricio Pellegrino in the second half of the Torneo 2015, Benítez starred for El Rojo and with captain Mancuello struggling with injury it was the youngster who emerged as a regular goal threat and focus of attack. Able to play on either flank or alongside Diego Vera as a striker, Benítez finally displayed the obvious talents that he frustratingly shown only in flashes as a squad player earlier in his career.
Ten goals in his 66 appearances to date for Independiente do not capture the progress that the academy product made in 2015. Prior to Pellegrino putting faith in El Topo, the youngster had made do with fleeting substitute appearances and all too often failed to impress. The talent was obviously there but at times, Benítez would play with his head down, running blindly at defenders and making the wrong decisions.
That changed last season and in his final 14 appearances of the season, Benítez scored six times and created a further four as the central figure in Independiente’s attack.
While the club and it’s supporters celebrated their new hero, the 21-year-old’s form alerted clubs from Europe. Galatasaray are reportedly set to send officials to Buenos Aires in an attempt to conclude a €8 million deal despite El Rojo desperate to resist any approach in this window.
Benítez signed a contract extension only a couple of months ago which runs until 2019 at a time when Porto and Atlético Miniero were making advances and El Rojo are keen to retain the forward for at least another six months. Despite the debt that the club is in, the sales of Mancuello and Pisano have already brought in more than 55 million pesos and Benítez as viewed as central to Pellegrino’s plans for 2016.
Fabio Fernández, a member of the Independiente board, said: “The idea is Benítez stays at least six months more, since he is an essential piece of the team and we believe that he has still not reached his peak.“
Certainly losing Benítez at this stage would seriously dent any hopes that Independiente have or ending their wait for a trophy and if the forward was to have another positive season in Avellaneda, his value would only increase.