There is inspiration in Arles. Vincent van Gogh had his artistic breakthrough in the French town, painting one of his most famous pieces, Starry Night Over the Rhone. A century later, Ismael Bennacer was born and is destined to be a different type of star.
Bennacer became part of Arsenal’s youth academy in 2015. Transferring to Empoli in 2017, who were then in Serie B, the young brain was a key player in his side’s promotion to Serie A.
Making the jump into the top flight, Bennacer is building upon his success from last season, becoming one of the league’s best defensive playmakers - or regista. His calmness and dynamism have become signature components to his play. Most of all, his genial intelligence and vision to read movement have poised him as one of the top young players in the league.
Remaining composed against major sides has only increased interest, and a departure from the Tuscan club now seems imminent for the 21-year-old. With his left foot the brush painting the pitch as his canvas, Bennacer’s abilities will lead him to a top club this summer.
During the January transfer window, it was rumored that Arsenal were looking to recall their youth product, before deciding to activate a clause adding a 30% sell-on fee for a future transfer. Meanwhile, Roma’s ex-sporting director Monchi had been denied his acquisition in the same window.
Speaking with Radio CRC earlier this week, Empoli president Fabrizio Corsi shed light on the situation, explaining that while Napoli had concrete interest, Inter could also be in the mix for a bid this summer.
Napoli would seem like the most suitable squad given the departure of Jorginho and Marek Hamsik, leaving a void in the centre of the Partenopei midfield. Giving Coach Carlo Ancelotti a tactical passer in midfield would provide a new outlet for his side, reminiscent of the days when his protege Andrea Pirlo dominated world football from the same position.
Both Inter and Roma look to be heading towards a summer squad revolution though, pending Champions League qualification. While the former has Marcelo Brozovic leading the midfield, he could look towards greener pastures as he enters the peak years of his career.
Meanwhile, the Giallorossi’s managerial situation remains unclear for next season. They would likely need to offload a midfielder before adding another, and have to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations following the amortization of last year’s costly purchases under Monchi.
According to Corsi, Empoli do not need to sell - which if true, will command a strong price for their genius in the making. If the Azzurri do get relegated though - as they currently sit in the bottom three - then Bennacer will surely force his hand to for joining one of the league’s best sides.