The 26-year-old was snubbed for Ligue 1’s best shortlist this term and is currently weighing his options as his contract enters its final year
Nice goalkeeper Walter Benitez is wanted by a trio of Premier League clubs, Goal understands, with Wolves seemingly leading the way and Newcastle and Crystal Palace also in the mix to sign the highly-rated Argentine.
Benitez’s absence from the National Union of Professional Footballers’ (UNFP) shortlist for Ligue 1 goalkeeper of the year has caused quite a stir in France, with many believing the 26-year-old has far outperformed the chosen nominees.
Alphonse Areola (PSG), Benjamin Lecomte (Montpellier), Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Mike Maignan (Lille) and Edouard Mendy (Reims) have all been selected by UNFP but a cursory look at the numbers suggests Benitez should have featured.
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Indeed, the former Quilmes youth has registered the highest save percentage across the season so far in the French top-flight with 81% and can boast having saved three out of five penalties faced in the 2018-19 campaign.
Benitez’s exploits haven’t gone completely unnoticed of course, with Goal able to reveal strong interest from Nuno Espirito Santo’s high-flying Wolves as well as fellow Premier League sides Newcastle and Crystal Palace.
It is the goalkeeper’s great desire to represent his home country on the big stage and with just one year left on his current deal at Nice, the 26-year-old is weighing up his options and the feeling is that a move to England might grant a proven performer greater visibility.
Benitez is happy in Nice having solidified his spot at the club’s undisputed No.1, but it is understood that the terms included in the club’s current offer of a contract extension has not pleased the Argentine and his entourage.
A summer exit would be unlikely to surprise coach Patrick Vieira, who recognises that his shot-stopper’s decision will almost undoubtedly be driven by his aspirations of playing with the Albiceleste – “I hope Walter gets called up to the national team,” the French boss said recently.
A lack of European football at the Allianz Riviera next season will no doubt be a factor in what Benitez chooses to do, with the best possible exposure believed to be one of the former Under-20 international’s main considerations.
And while only Wolves still stand a chance of reaching the Europa League – if Man City beat Watford in the FA Cup final – the popularity of the Premier League alone could be enough to convince Benitez to pack his bags.