Mehdi Benatia has explained how he feels disappointed by Roma’s contract offer, but says he may still stay at the club.
The 27-year-old has gone into the summer with growing speculation about a move away, with the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Barcelona all reported as interested in his services.
On from comments made last week, the centre-back has today looked to clarify his situation at Roma, where it is seen he has otherwise been pushing for a payrise.
“I never said I wanted to leave, I want to clarify this,” Benatia has begun in a lengthy interview with the Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Not to respond to those who have insulted me, but to tell people who love me the way things are.
“Last summer, my agent advised against me signing for Roma - the contract was low compared to other offers and they were not playing in Europe.
“I signed all the same and I have never regretted this - there was a project, I liked the idea. [Sporting director Walter] Sabatini looked me in the eyes, thanking me. During the year several times he told me that he liked my attitude, setting a meeting for the end of the season.
“I think I proved something, but I didn’t let it weigh on me, in what I did on the field or away from it. But there was an agreement, before signing with Roma, they told me: ‘Bena, we know that you deserve better and you have refused a lot of money. Come, show that you are of Roma and if we win the League or get into the Champions League, we will give you a good contract’.
“But what I got was an unacceptable proposal. I’ve heard that I was asking for €4m a year, but I never even got €3m.”
Benatia was asked if this was a domino effect on from Miralem Pjanic being handed an improved contract.
“I’ve never made comparisons with Mire, the strongest midfielder in the world. I never asked for money on the basis of his salary, but for an old promise that I had been made.
“The club instead said to me: ‘Here, takes these extra pennies’. Like a child, this and nothing more, there was no negotiation.
“And my response? Given that I respect Sabatini, who for me is a phenomenon and who wants to build a great Roma, I told him that for such an agreement I would never have signed, I preferred to stay with my salary - little compared to those offered from abroad from as early as January. The ds also told me: ‘The phone rings so much for you…’.”
The Moroccan international was asked whether he still ‘felt Roman’, as he had stated just over a month ago.
“I said it because I do. I bought a house in Rome, I have had the keys only five days. And then here I am in love with everything - the fans, the city, my teammates and a great Coach like Garcia.
“My mistake was to be too correct with the club and too honest. I only said that teams like Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester City are those that make anyone dream.
“Have I discussed the situation with my teammates and with Rudi Garcia? Obviously. My teammates know it all, the Coach said: ‘here you are right, there is everything here to do great things, we must stay here’.
“But I also told Garcia that they had made me a low offer. I only asked for a contract that shows that Roma really cares. But if they tell me this or nothing, it means that they do not want to keep me.”
Benatia was asked where he sees his future.
“I’m not sure I wouldn’t like it abroad, that is for my agent to work on. If I were to leave, I would have no problem in saying that for all Roma have given me, they deserve thanks.
“But I have no problem either in returning to Trigoria and ending my career in Rome. But I was disappointed, I deserved more respect.
“Do Roma want to sell me? I asked Sabatini and he told me no. But maybe I am the only one who can still improve further. I am 27, I am a defender.
“I always say what I think, it’s my biggest flaw. But that’s just me.
“Garcia? The Coach is an exceptional person. And from the first moment he has said: ‘We hope to keep almost everyone’. But what does ‘almost’ mean?”