Real Betis centre-back Luiz Felipe is reportedly on the cusp of swapping Real Betis for Al-Ittihad, with the paperwork already signed and submitted.
According to Fabrizio Romano, Felipe underwent a medical on Wednesday evening before penning a contract in Jeddah, leaving the Estadio Benito Villamarin after just one year.
Betis will earn around €25 million, add-ons included, from the 26-year-old’s switch to the Middle East, with the Brazil-born defender set to join Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante and Fabinho at the Shining Jewel.
It’s been six days since the curtain dropped on the transfer window in Spain, but Manuel Pellegrini looks on the verge of losing another significant first-team cog.
Long-serving playmaker Sergio Canales left Andalusia to embark on a new adventure in Mexico with Monterrey earlier in the summer, forcing Betis to capture ex-Sevilla flop Isco Alarcon to fill the vacancy.
However, Felipe’s departure only six days after the end of the Spanish transfer window could be a hammer blow for Pellegrini’s side, considering they cannot replace the ex-Lazio man.
Finding a replacement in the free agent market is Los Verdiblancos’ best hope of giving their manager another option at the back now that the Italy international is on his way to linking up with Al-Ittihad.
Pellegrini cannot afford to lose Felipe without landing a back-up defender, as Marc Bartra, German Pezzella and inexperienced Barcelona loanee Chadi Riad remain his only natural centre-backs.
Considering the latter has only recorded two minutes in La Liga this season, it’s more likely the former two would be Betis’ only reliable senior options after Felipe’s exit.
Dropping the versatile Mexican midfielder Guido Rodriguez into the backline could be the only solution for Pellegrini unless Betis can find an alternative in the market.
With the Andalusian outfit expecting a battle on multiple fronts after securing a place in the Europa League group stages, it’s understandable why the ex-Manchester City boss isn’t impressed with Felipe’s late sale.
He spoke to the press a few days ago, admitting he was hopeful of keeping the defender with an Italian passport at Benito Villamarin.
“I don’t think we will sell Luiz Felipe now as it would be really irresponsible,” Pellegrini said, as quoted by Romano.
“We can’t sell him now – otherwise we’d just have two centre-backs in the squad, so I don’t expect any movement.”
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