Benfica defender Ezequiel Garay has been strongly linked with a move to the Premier League this summer, so FourFourTwo asked Portuguese football expert Tom Kundert for the lowdown on the Argentine stopper...
The 60-second story
Ezequiel Garay swapped the capital of Spain for its Portuguese equivelent in the summer of 2011, joining Benfica after failing to nail down a first-team spot at Real Madrid. The Argentine defender quickly established himself as a reliable and high-quality performer, and has got better and better each season.
Garay forms a rock solid defensive partnership with captain Luisão at the heart of Benfica’s defence. Both players have been exceptional this season, especially since the turn of the year, with the Eagles shipping a miserly seven goals in 22 games in 2014. And seven is precisely the number of goals Garay has contributed at the other end in 2013/14, including crucial strikes in big games against Porto and Tottenham Hotspur.
Constantly linked with a move away from Benfica, the fact the Portuguese club only have 50% ownership of Garay perhaps explains why they have resisted the temptation to cash in a highly sought-after player so far.
- Date of birth: Oct 10, 1986
- Place of birth: Rosario, Argentina
- Positon: Centre-back
- Height: 6ft 2in
- Club: Benfica; 114 apps, 11 goals
- Country: Argentina; 18 apps, 0 goals
Why you need to know him
A supremely elegant centre-back, it is a pleasure to watch Garay gliding around the pitch. Credit must go to the Argentine for showing humility and a supremely professional attitude after being shown the door by Real Madrid. Rather than dwell on the disappointment, he simply knuckled down and has given magnificent service to Benfica.
Truth be told, the move away from the Bernabeu was mutually beneficial for the player and his new club. Even at a club of Real’s size, he was too good a player to be a back-up. His committed and classy displays make it a certainty he will be back in one of Europe’s major leagues very soon. And at 27-years-old, Garay is at the peak of his powers.
An unflappable defender, his excellent reading of the game, clean tackling and flawless concentration make him an extremely polished and disciplined centre-back. He has averaged four yellow cards a season since joining Benfica three years ago despite being a near ever-present, and has never seen red during that time. As you would expect from someone standing over 6ft 2in, he is extremely strong in the air, an asset he uses to good effect at both ends of the pitch. In addition to being a fine exponent in the art of defending and a potent attacking threat, Garay’s raking long-range passes rarely miss their target.
Garay is not the fastest of defenders and at times it seems he would benefit from being a little more aggressive. As such, he is best suited alongside a more rugged centre-back partner, as is the case at Benfica with Luisão.
Former Benfica captain and Portugal central defender Paulo Madeira: “Garay has been fantastic. People said he was expensive when Benfica bought him, but now they say he was cheap. If Manchester United sign Garay they will be very well served and his absence will be felt by Benfica.”
Did you know?
Ezequiel Garay is one of those players who appears not in the least weighed down by the responsibility of being an elite-level footballer, always playing with a smile on his face. Such a cheerful disposition may not be disconnected to the fact he is married to stunning Spanish model Tamara Gorro. The high-profile couple, who never miss a chance to publicly express their love for each other on Twitter, are expecting their first child this summer.
What happens next?
Zenit St. Petersburg were reportedly close to signing him in the January transfer window, with the club and player apparently turning down a hugely lucrative offer. Manchester United have long been linked with him, and recently Tottenham Hotspur have also been credited with an interest. With just one year left on his contract at the end of the season, it is all but certain Garay will be playing elsewhere come August.
“We will have talks to clarify the situation in the summer. With just a year left on Garay’s contract it’s logical that there will be news,” said his agent Rafael Zurro.
Shooting 5 • Heading 9 • Passing 7 • Tackling 8 • Pace 5 • Dribbling 5 • Creativity 6 • Work-rate 8