Football Features

Who is Giovani Lo Celso? The Real Betis dribble king linked with record Spurs move

By CJ Smith

Published: 9:15, 30 May 2019 | Updated: 12:58, 31 May 2019

Tottenham Hotspur are reportedly ready to smash their club-record transfer fee for Real Betis’ Giovani Lo Celso.

Spurs haven’t signed a player since they paid £23m to PSG for Lucas Moura in January 2018 but with a shock Champions League final and another top-four finish this season, it would appear the powers that be are ready to finally strengthen their threadbare squad.

Who is Giovani Lo Celso? Five key things to know…

  • Age: 23
  • Position: Attacking midfield
  • Career path so far: Rosario Central, PSG, Real Betis
  • Key stat: Lo Celso completed more dribbles (63) than any other Betis player in La Liga across 2018/19.
  • Did you know? Former PSG teammate Angel Di Maria was Lo Celso’s idol as a youngster.

Lo Celso initially joined Betis on loan from PSG in August, and with the Argentine not featuring in Thomas Tuchel’s plans, coupled with his fine form in Spain, they triggered their 22m (£19.4m) buyout clause to sign him permanently in April.

But BBC Sport have now reported that Spurs have already put a £53m bid in for Lo Celso, though they also understand Betis are looking for a fee closer to his £88m release clause.

But who is this Argentine ace potentially set to break the £42m transfer record Spurs paid for Davinson Sanchez, and what can he offer to their side? Squawka has you covered.

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Style of play

Although he can play on either wing, Lo Celso has flourished for Betis in a central role during 2018/19.

The 23-year-old has combined his mercurial dribbling skills with some quick-thinking and adept passing to turn himself into one of Spain’s most effective playmakers.

To play in Quique Setien’s Betis side – even if he has since been dismissed of his duties – you must love the ball. Only Barcelona (64.79%) had a higher average share of possession in La Liga than Betis (62.47%) throughout the season, and while things nosedived under Setien, when it was good, it was spectacular.

Lo Celso certainly ticks this box. With Betis playing out with their supreme ball-playing centre-backs, Marc Bartra, Aissa Mandi and Co, Lo Celso was able to drop into space, picking up the ball on the turn to drive at the opposition defence, completing more successful dribbles (63) than any Betis player in Spain’s top flight during 2018/19. If he doesn’t dribble past you, though, the ball will still be gone that quickly that you end up taking out the man himself – Lo Celso was fouled more times (67) than any other Betis player in La Liga the season just gone. His ability in the smallest of spaces is almost ethereal.

Or maybe the Argentina international doesn’t quite fancy his chances running at you? Sticking with the direct approach, Lo Celso had 64 shots in La Liga this season – only Sergio Canales (66) had more – 33 of which were from outside the area. If he doesn’t Messi you into submission, he’ll Ronaldo one from 30 yards out. Not that we’re suggesting he’s in the same league as those two just yet.

But Lo Celso isn’t just a direct ball hog. We called him a playmaker for a reason. Dropping into spaces just off the front line, right where defenders and midfielders will argue over whose job it is to pick you up, Lo Celso is incredibly adept playing quick, short passes or layoffs as his teammates seek to progress up the pitch.

This is a role already being fulfilled in north London by Dele Alli, Spurs’ very own Raumdeuter, but with Lo Celso pulling the strings, the England international would have even more freedom to get into the box in search of goals, or pull defenders further out of position to give Harry Kane space to do what Harry Kane does.

Lo Celso’s versatility would make him a hugely valuable asset to Mauricio Pochettino in what is currently a Spurs side starved of real depth.

From Real Betis to Spurs?

Betis started the season like a house on fire and for a number of months, were in the mix for a European place in La Liga. However, their form fell off a cliff during the second half of the season, causing Setiene to lose his job and Los Verdiblancos to settle for a 10th-place finish.

While Lo Celso only made his loan move from PSG permanent in April, the consensus is that the Parisians were happy to cash in, while Betis wanted to make sure they commanded power over his future fee. A lack of European football for the Andalusian side is not ideal for a player of his talents, whose highlights reel in the Europa League alone – with five goals in seven games – is enough to keep you busy for some time.

“I don’t know what may happen tomorrow. I try to focus on the present right now. We’ll see when the time comes.”

Lo Celso on his Real Betis future before signing permanently with them.

At Spurs, he would, hopefully, be working under one of the most in-demand managers in world football and a compatriot in Pochettino. More than that, though, his playmaking skills would be put to far better use with the likes of Kane, Son-Heung Min and Alli around him.

Sky Sports’ Graham Hunter believes Real Madrid will make Christian Eriksen one of their highest priority targets this summer and if that move comes to pass, Spurs must find a replacement to remain competitive among the Premier League’s elite. Lo Celso will surely be tempted by the lure of Champions League football, Spurs’ new stadium and some of the world-class talent he will emerse himself in.