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Biglia shows transfer suitors major credentials

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Anderlecht midfielder Lucas Biglia has been chased by all of Europe's top clubs - and with good reason.

Real Madrid, Manchester United and Chelsea have all been credited with an interest, but Arsenal are the club which habitually pops up when Biglia is mentioned.

And the Argentina star got to demonstrate to Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger first-hand just what a talented player he is when Biglia's Belgian side took on the Gunners at a pre-season tournament last weekend.

Southampton's St Mary's Stadium played host to the Markus Liebherr Memorial Trophy, a pre-season tournament held in honour of Southampton's previous owner.

The newly-promoted Saints welcomed Arsenal and Anderlecht to the south coast, and Biglia stole the show. The 26-year-old seemingly exerts minimal effort, but each of his movements are calculated, each of his passes pinpoint.

 

Sitting deep in front of the Anderlecht back four he pulled the strings against both Arsenal and Southampton. Never hassled in possession, the former-Independiente star found a teammate with metronomic regularity.

Rarely flashy, Biglia instead caught the eye as an island of calming consistency amid a pre-season game characterised by typically frantic scurrying and mercifully few moments of quality.

Born in Mercedes, Argentina, Biglia played like a Rolls-Royce. Physically, his game is limited - you won't find him breaking beyond the midfield to support the forwards, and his goal record bears this out. Biglia has just 10 goals in 227 appearances for Anderlecht since joining the Belgian club in 2006. But the Argentina international does his damage in a more subtle way.

Perhaps the highest compliment one can pay is that Biglia's play resembled that of Real Madrid star Xabi Alonso - without doubt the standard bearer for composed, skilful and measured midfield play.

Like Alonso, Biglia sits deep, but unlike the Spain midfielder, Biglia will rarely venture forward into the final third. Both rely on their passing to maintain their side's attacking thrust, and both have the unique and precious ability to make time and space where really none should exist.

Biglia primarily acts as a sort of extremely valuable, extremely talented security blanket. At Arsenal, the club most heavily linked with the Anderlecht star, Alex Song plays a similar role, and like Biglia, Song can often pick a pass. But the Gunners star is often criticised for bursting forward, neglecting his defensive duties and leaving the north London club exposed.

With Biglia alongside Song, the Cameroonian would have license to raid forward, while also providing a robust midfield presence to complement Biglia's lighter touch.

Young Player of the Year in Belgium five years ago, Biglia is no inexperienced campaigner, and perhaps would not be the typical Wenger signing. But with six Argentina caps under his belt, more than 200 appearances in Belgium, including Champions League experience, and still just 26-years-old, Wenger could do a lot worse than to open his chequebook for the player.

On Saturday, the Arsenal boss fielded a youthful team, with Thomas Eisfield, Craig Eastmond, Henri Lansbury, Francis Coquelin and Nico Yennaris all handed midfield starts.

While Biglia would be expected to assert his authority over these youngsters, his pedigree was so far above and beyond those with which he shared a pitch that Wenger can surely only have been left impressed. Anderlecht's profligate finishing let them down on the day, allowing Henri Lansbury to steal a goal and the three points but, Arsenal were out-passed and out-classed.

Admittedly, Anderlecht are considerably further along in their pre-season preparations than Wenger's group of youngsters, but that shouldn't temper Wenger's analysis of the player to any serious degree - his record in Belgium speaks for itself.

A midfield quartet of Biglia, Song, Arteta and a fully-fit Wilshere would leave Wenger comfortable with his options in the centre of the park, and in a considerably stronger position heading into the season than they presently find themselves.

In 2005, Biglia found himself anchoring the Argentina Under-20 team at the FIFA World Youth Championship, as further up the pitch an 18-year Lionel Messi fired his side to the title.

After six years in Belgium, Biglia will surely feel the time is right to test himself in a higher division, and join the likes of Messi at Europe's top table. The interest is there, only time will tell if someone is willing to take the plunge and sign the South American.

With a valuation around £8million, the Anderlecht midfielder is hardly a gamble, but so far interest from Real Madrid and Arsenal has failed to translate into concrete offers.

On the evidence of Saturday matches, such reluctance looks like a mistake. Wenger should be the first to make a move - he won't regret it.

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