A few hours following United’s defeat to Swansea Sky Sports reported that Moroccan international and Roma player Mehdi Benatia is to fly to England to hold negotiations with the Red Devils.
He started his career in France before moving to Italy’s Serie A initially with Udinese and then with AS Roma who acquired him last year for €13.5m. Benatia is an experienced player at 27 years of age. Possibly, most of United’s supporters have never heard of or followed him. However, followers of Italian football consider him as one of the best (if not the best) defenders in Italy and as we all know, Italians know a thing or two about defending.
A personal friend of mine, who is a qualified Football Physical Trainer, whose Professor at University was former Manchester United and Real Madrid Physical Trainer – Walter di Salvo, happens to be an AS Roma supporter. He only had words of praise for the Moroccan Central Defender. Describing him as a strong and consistent defender who is worthy of any top team.
AS Roma, always looked at Benatia as an investment as they were aware that interest in him will not fade away. Having acquired him for just over €13m, they will most probably be making around €10-15m profit in less than a year. What is important is what he could contribute to Manchester United. The Red Devils defence lacks a proper and natural leader and Benatia may bring that to United defence and hopefully install belief.
Louis van Gaal claimed on Friday’s press conference that it only takes 24 hours to sign a player. Possibly, having this transfer already in mind, I wouldn’t be surprised if an announcement is made as early on Monday. Personally, I believe that Benatia was United’s Plan B. Man Utd’s Plan A was Mats Hummels, the Germany and Borussia Dortmund Central Defender. His coach, Jurgen Klopp, made it clear on more than one occasion that the player is not for sale and to emphasise this he also handed the commanding defender the team’s captaincy.
Injuries have already hit United hard in the department which lacks most numbers – defence. In consideration of this as well as to avoid over reliance on youth, Benatia is possibly not the only new defender to join Manchester United. It was claimed that Daley Blind’s agent was at Old Trafford on Saturday whilst Sky Sports also reported that the Red Devils are hoping to resolve a conflict between Sporting Lisbon and the third party owners of Marcos Rojo.
Names such as Vidal and Di Maria are still going strong in the press, I personally hope that there is some truth in these reports and that these transfers may happen.
Hopefully Benatia will be the first of a number of transfers United will conclude prior to the end of the transfer window. Certainly this would be a step in the right direction and would be an improvement on the current stock of players.