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Manchester United Should Look to Benatia Should Chelsea Pass Up on Roma Defender

ROME, ITALY - DECEMBER 22:  Mehdi Benatia of AS Roma celebrates after scoring the third team's goal during the Serie A match between AS Roma and Calcio Catania at Stadio Olimpico on December 22, 2013 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images
Jerrad PetersWorld Football Staff WriterAugust 12, 2014

Manchester United and Chelsea are already tangling for the signature of Fiorentina’s Juan Cuadrado, and AS Roma defender Mehdi Benatia could well be the next player to come between the Premier League rivals.

According to the Express, Chelsea could end up hijacking United’s reported £36 million approach for Cuadrado, much like they did with Tottenham Hotspur’s interest in former Shakhtar Donetsk attacker Willian last season.

Juan Cuadrado enjoyed a standout season at Fiorentina before impressing at the World Cup with Colombia.
Juan Cuadrado enjoyed a standout season at Fiorentina before impressing at the World Cup with Colombia.Clive Rose/Getty Images

But United are also thought to be keen on Benatia, whom they scouted last March in a match against Inter Milan, as per Football Italia.

The Morocco international, until now reported by The Independent to be a primary target of Chelsea, has recently fallen out with Roma over his contract and could be available for £30 million pounds this summer.

Back in May, he took to La Gazzetta dello Sport to reveal that Roma had promised a restructured deal and even admitted that his agent had advised him “not to sign” for the Giallorossi.

As relayed by Goal, Benatia had been told he could renegotiate his pact in the event that Roma qualified for the Champions League.

“My mistake is that I have been too correct and too sincere toward the club,” he said, adding, “I deserve more respect.”

No doubt both Chelsea and United could offer him the payday he seeks, although, with Blues manager Jose Mourinho perhaps content to stand pat with Branislav Ivanovic, Kurt Zouma, Nathan Ake and even Andreas Christensen in support of John Terry and Gary Cahill, there could be an opportunity for United to pounce.

They’d do well to take it.

Not only would a Benatia move to Stamford Bridge help strengthen a direct rival, it would also see the Red Devils miss out on yet another defensive target after being spurned in their pursuit of Mats Hummels.

And in Benatia, they’d be getting the type of defender they quite clearly need.

A tough-tackling centre-back with good instincts and an eye for a pass, the 27-year-old is also strong in the air and contributed five goals for Roma in his first season at the club, following a move from Udinese.

Benatia played as part of a three-man defense at Udinese.
Benatia played as part of a three-man defense at Udinese.Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Born in France and previously eligible to represent both Morocco and Algeria, he was trained at the prestigious Clairefontaine academy and represented France at Under-18 level before making his senior debut for the Atlas Lions in 2008.

Crucially, he operated as part of a back three at Udinese under former manager Francesco Guidolin, and given new United manager Louis van Gaal’s preference for the system, he’d make a natural fit.

But under no circumstances can United afford to lose both Benatia and Cuadrado to Chelsea. And while acquiring both would be ideal, if they had to pick one, they could do worse than strengthening at the back.

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