An imposing centre-back: 6' 4" and 14 stones of pure power. A dominante of the rearguard, to use a term much loved by sporting director Walter Sabatini. But Mehdi Benatia is a lot more than just muscle. His stature is certainly a great asset for the position he plays in – he rarely gets beaten in the air or in one-on-one situations – but he's also well equipped in the skill department. He's got a useful right foot on him and is not unknown to hit the back of the net.
Of Moroccan descent, 26-year-old Benatia was born on June 17, 1987 in Courcouronnes (in the outskirts of Paris). He spent his formative years at local teams Évry and Créteil before joining the National Institute of Football in Clairefontaine. Later he moved to Marseille and, after four years in the youth ranks, was loaned to Tours in 2006 to get some first-team experience under his belt, making 29 appearances.
The following season he joined Lorient but the experience was cut short by a knee injury. After returning to Marseille in 2008 he agreed to join Ligue 2 outfit Clérmont, which is where he really made a name for himself with some outstanding performances. There were plenty of clubs after his signature but Udinese got there first and snapped him up in 2010. Three successful years in Friuli followed – 80 games and six goals – before Roma came calling.
Benatia got off on the right foot with the Giallorossi fans when he declared, in the weeks prior to joining the capital club: "I've always had a soft spot for Roma, just ask Pinzi. He's a Lazio fan and I'm always goading him saying that he should support Roma." And quite right too. Welcome aboard, Mehdi.
» Back to News