Usain Bolt once hailed Gareth Bale as “the fastest footballer in the world”. Facing off against Marc Bartra in the final stretches of 2014’s Copa Del Rey final, Bale had no trouble in demonstrating his lung-busting abilities, leaving the Spaniard with his head spinning as he powered past to net the match winner.
During his time in the Premier League, Bale was regarded as a serious speedster, but even so his burst of raw speed against Barcelona was awe-aspiring – much like when Muhamed Bešic completely negated the Welshman only six months later.
Wales’ match against Bosnia-Herzegovina in their 2016 European Championship qualifying campaign saw Bešic single-handedly shackle the Home Nation’s biggest threat, limiting the former world’s most expensive player to peripheral figure status. Bešic stalked the Real Madrid attacker, at one point catching up to a blistering run, tackling and winning the ball and starting the next move. Impressive, as few could even hope to match Bale for speed.
It wasn’t the first time Bešic had impeded one of the elite. Only four months earlier in Bosnia’s first ever World Cup game, Bešic put in a combative bulldog-like display to mark Lionel Messi out of the game’s first half, breaking up play and disrupting the Argentinian midfield in what was incidentally his debut showing as a No6.
It’s not difficult to see why Roberto Martínez was quick to snap him up then, fairly sharply after the World Cup drew to a close. Bešic represented the dream combination, a striking tenacity and an aggressively high work rate to complement the more sedentary solidity offered up by Gareth Barry, all the while still offering a creative outlet – and still only 22-years of age.
Most impressively, perhaps, was the calmness Bešic offered, particularly in the latter stages of games. The Everton faithful often shows little patience in overindulgence, yet Bešic frequently found himself delaying a pass until a last second gap appeared, which won more applause than it complaints.
In the early days, Bešic was the future of Everton’s midfield. Aggressive and mobile, Bešic’s movement and use of the ball spoke of a profound footballing intelligence, just waiting to be tapped into. Barry offered the defensive assurance, James McCarthy set the tempo and Bešic found his place as a combative ball winner and creator.
But as happens with far too many talented young players, injury struck. Bešic’s second season was plagued with injuries, limiting the midfielder to just 12 league appearances. Injury brought Bešic to his knees once again on the eve of the Premier League last summer, keeping him out for six months just before Ronald Koeman commenced his debut Premier League campaign with Everton.
Thankfully for the club, Idrissa Gueye proved to be a revelation after his £7.1million transfer from Aston Villa and Tom Davies has proven his worth after rising through the ranks. With James McCarthy having a mini resurgence, the big money signing of Morgan Schneiderlin and Gareth Barry still being valuable as a squad player, Bešic will be wondering where, and if, he can fit back into Everton’s squad.
Everton already have a midfield selection problem without Bešic, which begs the question, what does the future hold for Bešic? Could he be valued as a squad player? Could he move back to centre-half, the position he played for the majority of his career?
Everton are better off with a player of Bešic’s calibre, and particularly his passion, sticking around, but it would be difficult to shoehorn other players out of position to accommodate the Bosnian. Bešic is valued as a big talent in Bosnia, with his surprise selection for Bosnia’s opening World Cup game in 2014 catapulting him into the Bosnian limelight, with many hailing him as the future of Bosnian football. With that in mind, and with Bešic maturing, maybe he’ll want to find a club where he can play a bigger part.
That said, Bešic could find himself useful in another role for Everton. Everton seem to stockpile midfielders, but are rather thin in the centre of defence. Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka are both on the wrong side of 30 and Ramiro Funes Mori is skittish a little too often. Mason Holgate has a big future at centre-half, as does Brendan Galloway, although the latter has yet to show it in that position. Therefore, could Bešic look to fill that void?
It’s difficult to predict how Bešic will return from his lengthy injury layoff, and even if Ronald Koeman likes him enough to include him in his first-team plans, but here’s hoping Koeman considers his versatility when judging whether to keep him on, or say goodbye to mercurial Mo.