Soccer Premier League

15 shades of Ezequiel Garay: Profiling Manchester United’s $26.6 million target

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Ezequiel Garay could be on his way to his fifth professional club

Here, Garay is sporting the famous colors of Los Blancos
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Cultured center back Ezequiel Garay is once again the subject of transfer speculation just two years into his Benfica career. The Argentina defender has gone from strength-to-strength since an unsuccessful three-year stint at Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid that began in 2008 and has, for the last 12 months, continued to attract the attention of Premier League champions Manchester United.

Despite a change in managerial personnel, from Sir Alex Ferguson to David Moyes, the Red Devils have, according to broadsheet rumors, maintained their admiration of the tall and athletic defender, leading to reports of a $26.6 million bid in the coming weeks.

Such reports have been bolstered with Benfica's own transfer policy as, a mere 24 hours into the summer window, the Portuguese outfit recruited Lisandro Lopez, a player deemed to be Garay's replacement. United have also been active in the July market with the capture of Uruguayan full back Guillermo Varela for an undisclosed fee believed to be in the region of $3.6 million from Montevideo side Penarol.

The Varela signing by no means concludes United's policy for pre-season and on the contrary, is seen to signal the start of a busy period that could include sealing deals for creative Borussia Dortmund forward Robert Lewandowski, in-form Premier League poster-boy Gareth Bale, Barcelona fringe player Thiago Alacantra and Benfica’s Garay.

In this 15-slide profile, Rant Sports writer Alan Dawson lists 15 facts readers may or may not know about Garay, one of United's top priority signings ahead of the 2013-14 season.

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Lionel Messi casts his eye over his four Ballon d'Ors

Messi grew up in Newell's Old Boys youth team
Presse Sports-USA TODAY Sports

Garay received his education at Newell’s Old Boys who are nicknamed La Lepra (Leprosy) as in the 1920s, they played in a charity match to raise funds for a leprosy clinic. Newell’s were also the first club Lionel Messi played at prior to his Barcelona move.

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Garay's form at Racing Santander convinced Real Madrid to buy him

At Racing's stadium, Garay forged a reputation as a dead ball specialist
Yearofthedragon-Creative Commons

At Racing Santander he honed his free kick and penalty-taking skills and struck the net 10 times from 31 appearances in 2006-07 to become the highest scoring defender in Europe.

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Gold-medal winning Garay has teamed with many elite players

Sergio Aguero fights for the ball
Witters Sport-USA TODAY Sports

At the 2008 Beijing Games, Garay helped Argentina to gold. His teammates included Messi, Sergio Aguero and Javier Mascherano.

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Garay and Luisao have become a formidable pairing in Portugal

Luisao is a beast in the air or with the ball at his feet
P Largo/Panoramic-USA TODAY Sports

At Benfica, Garay partners with Luisaio. Together, they have been dubbed “the defensive wall.” As he has not even been at the club for two years, his ability to quickly forge famous partnerships bodes well for new suitors.

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Garay is physically adept at playing at the back

The Argentine has many commendable qualities
Jim O’Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Garay is comfortable with his foot on the ball, is technically sound, mobile and prefers to calmly pass the ball out of defense rather than hoof it through the stadium and into the car park in a blind panic.

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Garay has been likened to Rio Ferdinand

Ferdinand has bossed the backline at Old Trafford for years
Gordon Flood-Creative Commons

His style of football is reminiscent of Rio Ferdinand. He is able to play a higher line which may suit United’s counter-attacking tendencies.

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There is competition at United's rear-guard

Smalling (right), Phil Jones and Jonny Evans want to succeed Rio
Andrea Sartorati-Creative Commons

He will rival British trident Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling (pictured, right) as the player to succeed Ferdinand. Because Jones and Smalling may be regarded as fledglings, Garay could be viewed by Moyes as a more experienced head.

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Cash-laden Real Madrid stand to receive more from any Garay sale

Benfica have to pass on funds due to a contractual clause
Jaime de la Fuente-Creative Commons

Real Madrid sell-on clause is 50 percent, meaning they will receive half of whatever transfer fee Manchester United and Benfica agree on for Garay’s services.

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United's attempts to sign Garay is not seen as a worthwhile investment

The club's value on NYSE has witnessed great fluctuation recently
Raysonho-Creative Commons

Manchester United, third in Deloitte’s 2012 football money league, saw their New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) value fall 9 percent last month. The cause is rumored to be the multi-million dollar deal for Garay suggesting investors believe the deal will fail to yield defensive results.

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Alejandro Sabella is one of Garay's most ardent supporters

Sabella, the national coach of Argentina, regularly picks Garay for duty
Fanny Schertzer-Creative Commons

On-pitch statistics suggest the NYSE is off. Garay featured in nine Argentina international matches, winning eight and drawing once. National coach Alejandro Sabella commented, “He’s doing well in Portugal. Time will tell if Madrid made a mistake or not.”

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Will injury problems prevail at Old Trafford?

United are often plagued with many of their roster in the physio's room
Alface-Creative Commons

Garay’s switch will be subject to a medical. He will likely pass as he has no current troubles, but he has a history of leg complaints including two knee injuries (2008, 2010) and an ankle ailment (2011).

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Garay's transfer value has risen significantly as of late

How much is Ezequiel worth?
Fanny Schertzer-Creative Commons

Respected transfer documentation site places Garay’s valuation at $22.5 million to $26 million.

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A United switch will see Garay's total transfer value double...

Garay could have a near $50 million figure spent on him by four clubs
Jan Solo-Creative Commons

Garay’s transfer fees have fetched $22 million thus far. Adding the expected United transfer, Garay’s transfer fees could exceed $45 million.

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Have Benfica already signed Garay's replacement?

Lisandro Lopez may be Luisao's partner in the 2013-14 season
Jejecam-Creative Commons

Garay’s Benfica exit may have been hastened last week as the Primera Liga runner-up sealed a deal for Lisandro Lopez, who even spoke out about his readiness to replace Garay.

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And has Garay already made an unofficial announcement?

Ezequiel may have made a Twitter faux pas...
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Whilst the agreement is not yet official, Garay has already started following the official Spanish version of the Manchester United account on Twitter.