In a Roma side that contains some impressive attackers, 27-year-old Moroccan center back Mehdi Benatia has stood out as one of their key players in a season in which saw the club concede just 25 goals in the League. From being turned down by his beloved Marseille as a teenager, to becoming one of Serie A’s most accomplished defenders, Benatia’s career is a testament to his determination and his willingness to keep fighting on. Although he only moved to Roma last summer, his performances have caught the eye of top clubs like Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea.
1. Career history
Born to a Moroccan father and an Algerian mother in a small town called Courcouronnes, just south of Paris, Benatia was a member of the famous Clairefontaine academy and played alongside future French internationals like Hatem Ben Arfa, Samir Nasri, Karim Benzema and Jeremy Menez. As a 16-year-old, Benatia joined Marseille but never really got an opportunity to play for the club as he was farmed out on loan, first to second-division club Tours and then to Lorient, where he injured himself and didn’t play a single game.
His first shot at regular, first team football came at Clermont, whom he joined on a free transfer in 2008. After two successful seasons with the club, he made his move to Italian Udinese again on a free. It was here that Benatia showed how good he was as he quickly established himself as a first-choice center back. In his three seasons with the club, Benatia made over 70 appearances and scored five teams before his big-money switch to Roma last summer, where he has once again proved his worth. Although he was born in France, he chose to represent his father’s homeland of Morocco for whom he has already made over 30 appearances.