Once again, the career of Ever Banega is at a crossroads, but for once it isn’t the fault of the midfielder who is never far from trouble
The career of Ever Banega is one that can be categorised as squandered potential in vast parts and has been filled with enough self-inflicted mishaps to finish a less talented player. But after finally realising his promise, the 28-year-old now finds himself once more struggling for playing time and pondering his next move.
Less than one year ago, Banega shone under Unai Emery as Sevilla successfully defended their Europa League crown and when Emery swapped Andalucía for Paris, Banega took the opportunity to test himself in Italy with Inter Milan.
The Nerazzurri had been through a difficult spell but had new coach Frank de Boer in charge and picked up arguably the signing of the summer in Banega on a free transfer.
However, in less than three months, the Dutch coach appeared to lose the dressing room amid poor results and the inevitable outcome was the exit door.
Results under his replacement Stefano Pioli have certainly improved and Inter are now up to fifth but Banega has struggled for playing time and with Portuguese midfielder Joao Mario being preferred, the Argentine hasn’t completed 90 minutes in Serie A since the end of October.
Under these circumstances, Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian have been linked with a €25 million move but having put behind a lot of his baggage, there could be a number of suitors for Banega come June if his situation hasn’t changed.
Unai Emery can take a lot of credit for that given that for vast parts of Banega’s career, clubs wouldn’t want to go near him….and for good reason.
Rosario native Banega had burst into the Boca Juniors first team at the age of eighteen following Fernando Gago’s transfer to Real Madrid and with his wonderful array of passing was immediately identified as a very special talent.
In the summer of that year, Banega, along with the likes of Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria, lifted the under-20 World Cup for Argentina and a first winners’ medal was followed by a first negative headline when a video of the teenagers trashing their hotel room surfaced.
Less than a year after making his senior Boca debut, Valencia forked out €20 million and things got really out of hand.
— Tournoi Maurice Revello (@TournoiMRevello) December 6, 2016
Or perhaps in hand, judging by Banega’s x-rated webcam performance shortly after arriving at the Mestalla.
The youngster made more of an impact on the Spanish nightlife than he did on the pitch and after being pulled over by the police in the early hours, while over the limit, Valencia decided enough was enough.
Banega disagreed and despite signing a no-going-out clause when signing for Atlético Madrid on loan, the 20-year-old was still a regular in the bars and clubs.
Atleti knew they had a talent but a club record for disciplinary fines and reports that he turned up to team meetings still feeling the effects of the night before and half asleep meant Los Colchoneros kindly declined their option to make the deal permanent.
Banega returned to Valencia acknowledging his misdemeanors, “I arrived at 18 and made mistakes. I wasted two years and have thought about things. Now I hardly ever go out.”
With this new attitude under the guidance of Emery, Banega finally showed the Mestalla what he was capable of but there was still time for another comical mishap to further dent his reputation.
Having just returned from a knee injury, Banega fractured his ankle after being run over by his own car when failing to put the handbrake on when filling up with petrol and missed the remainder of the 2011-12 season.
With a rap sheet this long it wasn’t clear if Banega would ever consistently prove his worth but his later reunion with Emery at Sevilla did just that.
Delightfully transitioning between a number five and a number ten, Banega was the creative hub that drove the Andalusian club to consecutive Europe Leagues.
Having overcome all these setbacks (admittedly mostly of his own making) and claiming an important role in the Argentina squad it’s a shame to see Banega’s momentum falter. Still only 28 if Inter decide that the wily midfielder doesn’t fit, there will hopefully be better options than China.