Brighton Opinion: Girona attacker Portu could prove to be a massive coup for the Seagulls
According to claims from Spanish source El Mundo Deportivo, Premier League duo Brighton and Hove Albion and West Ham are set to battle it out for the signature of Girona’s Spanish attacking midfielder Portu in the summer transfer window.
Cristian Portugues Manzanera, better known as Portu, netted 10 goals in 37 appearances across all competitions for Girona this term, as the Catalan club suffered relegation from the La Liga in their second season in the top-flight.
The 27-year-old seemingly has carved out a reputation for himself in the top-flight and it is understood that Brighton and West Ham are prepared to offer him an escape route.
Portu formed a wonderful strike partnership with Uruguayan international Cristhian Stuani at Girona and his prolific form hasn’t eluded the eyes of the English clubs, meaning that a move to the Premier League is very much on the cards for the former Valencia academy product.
An academy product of Valencia, Portu made only a handful of appearances for his boyhood club before joining Albacete in the Segunda Division back in 2014. The Spaniard scored 12 goals in 79 appearances for Albacete over the course of two seasons before switching boats to join fellow second-tier outfit Girona following his club’s relegation to the third-tier.
Portu set the stage on fire at Girona in his debut season and played a key role in their first ever promotion to the La Liga, contributing with 8 goals and 8 assists to propel the Catalans into the Spanish top-flight. He bettered those numbers on his return to the La Liga and bagged an impressive 11 goals in the 2017-18 campaign, as Girona beat the drop with ease.
The 27-year-old’s influence hardly seemed to wane this term but his best efforts weren’t enough to keep Girona in the top-flight for another season. Nevertheless, he has shown that he belongs to a much higher level than the Spanish second-tier and his exploits have attracted attention from across the continent.
To put things into perspective, Portu neither has an eye-watering record for a striker nor does he fall under the category of a world-beater but the Spaniard could potentially be a useful signing for either of the aforementioned Premier League clubs.
While West Ham should look at him as a replacement for the likes of Javier Hernandez, Andy Carroll and Lucas Perez, the Spaniard could also add a bit more spice to a rather tame looking Brighton attack. However, the Seagulls should look to try and win the race for the 27-year-old this summer.
Portu is not an out-and-out centre-forward by trade but the Spaniard is very much capable of leading the line and playing out wide on either flank as an attacking midfielder. However, he is at his best when deployed in a No.10 role as a supporting striker behind the No.9, which allows him to bring his playmaking attributes into play.
The 27-year-old is blessed with a decent technique and he knows how to combine his technical abilities with his slick passing and tactical maturity. Noted for his flair and trickery on the ball, Portu is capable of playing between the opposition’s lines and has the vision and the creativity to work the channels and open up the spaces for his teammates.
To add to that, the Spaniard can be a handful with his link-up play and clever movement off the ball, which allows him to get into scoring positions inside the box. His sharpness and agility can also be an asset to any team during counter-attacking situations.
Chris Hughton’s dismissal following a poor run in the Premier League this past season and the subsequent appointment of Graham Potter as the new manager is a clear indication of Brighton’s ambition in the top-flight.
The Seagulls need to back their new manager with a good-enough budget this summer and the acquisition of Portu could solve a lot of problems for the south-coast club.
Glen Murray topped the scoring list with 14 goals last season but Brighton have every reason to be concerned with the lacklustre performances of Jurgen Locadia and club-record signing Alireza Jahanbahksh.
They raided the Spanish top-flight for Florin Andone last summer and the Romanian did show glimpses of promise in his limited opportunities in his first season in English football, which should further prompt the Seagulls to bring in Portu.
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Brighton need more depth and quality in their attack to challenge for better things in the Premier League and the acquisition of the 27-year-old could prove to be a make-or-break factor for them next term.