Orkun Kökçü: Analyzing Benfica’s New Signing in Midfield

Club: Benfica

Nationality: Turkey

Position(s): CM, AM

Preferred Foot: Both

Height: 5’9”/175cm

Age: 22

Strengths: ambidexterity, passing, creativity, experience, set-pieces, leadership

Development Areas: defensive ability, speed


Five months after selling Enzo Fernández to Chelsea for €121 million, Benfica have followed up their first league title in four years by signing Feyenoord captain Orkun Kökçü for €30 million, the most expensive signing in the history of the Portuguese league. Having played a key role in Feyenoord’s run to the 2022 Europa Conference League Final, Kökçü stayed put amidst a summer exodus and led them to their first league title in six years with 12 goals and 5 assists in all competitions.


One of Kökçü’s biggest strengths is his ambidexterity. He has elite passing, delivery and shooting ability off both feet which makes him unpredictable, this is a key aspect in making him so good creatively. When defending against him it’s hard to know what he’ll do next because he can go past you with both feet or pick out passes no one else can see with both feet. 


Kökçü’s passing range is sensational. He attempted 83.79 passes (top 1%), his short pass completion is 91.3% and he attempts 13.12 long passes (top 4%). He has great vision & can pick out top passes to create chances – with 2.97 key passes, 10.92 passes into the final third & 2.50 passes into the penalty area (all in the top 1%). Kökçü also has the most chances created for a U23 player in 2022/23 in Europe’s top seven leagues.


Whilst Florentino Luís, João Neves, Chiquinho and Fredrik Aursnes have all done well to compensate for Enzo’s departure, it was evident that Benfica needed to sign someone who, similarly to the Argentine, is one of the best progressive passers in Europe. However, Enzo tends to be positioned in a much deeper role & receives the ball between the center backs before shifting the ball to other attacking players, whilst his replacement loves to pick up the ball in more advanced positions then run with the ball & create in the final third.


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The Turkey international is a genuine goal threat, whether it’s from outside the box or making runs into the box, his finishing and shooting ability on both feet is quality & he has 11 goals in all competitions this season. He’s also deadly from set-pieces, whether it’s corners, shooting from free kicks or creating chances via free kicks. He’s technically gifted. He also takes 2.74 shots p/90 (top 3%).


One way in which he’s not as similar to Enzo is that his defensive contributions aren’t as high. Kökçü only has 1.30 tackles and 0.63 interceptions. Meanwhile, Enzo has 2.81 tackles & 1.01 interceptions. wins a lower percentage of his duels & has lower defensive actions. But that’s simply because it’s not his role and he’s been given the freedom to create.


Despite not having the best defensive numbers, one thing to consider with Kökçü is that he’s an aggressive player, so despite his smaller frame, he uses his body well to win back the ball or to brush off defenders when dribbling, whilst he’s also a better ball carrier than the ex River Plate man with 3.04 progressive carries p/90 and 60.82 carries p/90. 


At 22 years old, Kökçü has not only emerged as a key figure in midfield for Turkey, but a genuine leader and talisman in the center of the pitch for Feyenoord, playing 175 matches and gaining the captain’s armband, and he looks set to provide this dynamism and leadership at the Estádio da Luz.


The question remains: where will he fit into Benfica’s team? Roger Schmidt’s side operate in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and whilst Florentino Luís dropped out of the starting line-up in the final weeks of the season, he could be an ideal partner for Kökçü in a similar way to how he was the perfect foil for Enzo. Constantly winning the ball back and giving it to his midfield partner to progress the ball and create chances, he could form an impressive double pivot with Florentino, but he could also play further forward as an attacking midfielder with Aursnes, Florentino, Neves or Chiquinho playing together in the midfield.


Having won their first league title in four years, Benfica are fast at work to ensure that last season wasn’t just a blip but rather a sign of things to come. Club captain Nicolás Otamendi has renewed his deal through 2025, whilst fellow World Cup winner Ángel di María could be set to return to Benfica on a free transfer. Whilst there’s still plenty of work left to be done, namely replacing Álex Grimaldo, the arrival of Orkun Kökçü for a league-record fee is nevertheless a statement of intent and a major level-raiser for Benfica.


By: Ben Mattinson / @Ben_Mattinson_

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Soccrates  Images – Getty Images