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Tuesday August 26 2014
The importance of selling Benatia

Roma's frenetic deals to find and lose a defender is understandable in light of their defence being the only real uncertainty for the season, argues Andrea Tallarita.

All that Walter Sabatini needs is a couple of explosions, and then his life becomes the prototype of a Michael Bay movie, with him literally flying everywhere in a race against time to satisfy 23 different parties while presumably swearing a lot.

The latest reports indicate volcanic mercato activity all involving Roma’s defence, with Moroccan centre-back Mehdi Benatia still the conundrum. His sale seems inevitable now, not only because Olympiakos' Kostas Manolas looks certain to arrive and unofficial sources suggest Lille's Marko will closely follow, but because the player himself seems to be on the verge of rupture. Apparently his relationship with the rest of the team is tense, with long spells of silence broken only by episodes of bickering. Benatia can't wait to leave, and the others can't wait either.

The reason the sale still hasn't happened is that Roma still has several details to smooth out, including but not limited to that of price. Bayern Munich, still the most likely candidate to secure the veteran defender's services, initially put £19m on the table, while Roma were looking for an offer closer to £24m. The disagreement resulted in a stasis, which Sabatini promptly employed to fly to England in an attempt to find other solutions – for instance, trying to upsell Benatia to Arsenal, who turned down the offer. When that happened, Sabatini was expected to fly to Germany yesterday – something he did not do. Perhaps there is still unfinished business in England, but expect closure for the Benatia histrionics in the very near future – possibly in the next few hours.

Such closure is in fact central to any discussions about Roma's immediate future, as the primary source of uncertainty going into the season is the team's defence. Summer games have suggested that the department is less lucid and efficient than it was last year, and the injury of Leandro Castan means that Roma will likely have to deploy a whole new central duo for a while.

This is important because Coach Rudi Garcia's 4-3-3 relies on a functional relationship between two strong passers in the middle of the defence and two strong passers in the middle of the midfield. These four passers make up an interlocked tactical square that allows the rest of the team to manoeuvre around it at high levels of speed. In the absence of Benatia and Castan, new players will have to be worked into the role not quickly but immediately – the season opener against Fiorentina, who pack a heavy punch even in the absence of Giuseppe Rossi, is only five days away.

If it is confirmed that both Basa and Manolas are incoming, then expect a loan for hot prospect Alessio Romagnoli to follow, possibly en route to Sampdoria. Roma's four central defenders would then become Castan, Basa, Manolas and Davide Astori, three of whom would be newcomers this year. While not all of them may be world class, on paper that's a solid defence. It will have to hold up on the field too, though, not just on paper. Roma's whole season depends on it.

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Have your say...
@ Maldini's Heir

I'm not a Roma fan, Just a fan of Italian football in general. AC Milan's selling strategy has been terrible over the last few years. If the stories about Roma building a new stadium are true, and don't get held up in red tape they could become a great club. I'm dissapointed with Juve this year, they've bought 4/5 good players when they should of bought 1/2 world class talents. Lazio/Inter have bought well, Milan/Napoli/Fiorentina have some work to do for me
on the 29th August, 2014 at 1:23pm
It will be a massive shame to see him go, but the time was rite for example before benatia came to roma he was a good defender that has turned world class, who says we cant do the same with manolas astori look at castan how he has come on these past years, its really good buisness for mm, are team is alot stronger then last even if there is a defencive reshuffle manolas looks up to the challenge and again we beat the likes of juve arsenal utd to him, forza roma, we need to sign 1 more striker
on the 28th August, 2014 at 11:40am
@ Luca You're absolutely right. I am so jealous of Roma fans! I wish Milan could have this logical approach to transfers. Galliani cannot even get money in for Nocerino, Robinho or Matri and managed to sell Balotelli at an undervalue! Roma are in good shape and I greatly admire their manager. I am not a fan of your vice captain though after his comments after the World Cup so assuming Milan don't win the league this year (???) Roma unfortunately cannot be my second team. I guess its "ABJ"
on the 28th August, 2014 at 10:29am
Once again this new Roma regime show the rest of Serie A how it's done, buy a player, develop them, sell them for a huge profit and replace them swiftly with an equally talented player and have money left to spare. Now they can keep the money, or reinvest to further strengthen the squad. For me they need another striker even if they do keep Destro, and a new 'keeper.
on the 27th August, 2014 at 5:07pm
Roma, typical small time club, even with a new American owner. Can't give their best player the raise he deserves and hold on to him ahead of a crucial campaign. Serie A has become a third rate league like the Greek or Portuguese leagues.
on the 27th August, 2014 at 4:39pm
Garcia and Sabatini have it sussed. They have replaced Benatia very well by bringing in Astori (already a strong defender used to playing in Serie A) and Manolas (one of the most talented young CBs in Europe) to partner Castan.

Plus they have managed to make decent money on Benatia, a player who clearly thinks he's too good for this Roma side. Good riddance.

Garcia and Sabatini setting the standard for how to play the mercato like true pros. Take note, Galliani.
on the 27th August, 2014 at 9:59am
Sabatini is a beast.. he reminds me of a shark once it smells blood it goes for the kill... He sees talent in a player and he is quick to pounce and snap him before anyone does... The guy is a master mind a genious he proved it with the likes of Lamela, Marquinho and now Benatia.. him and Garcia are Roma's light at the end of the tunel and the light (tittle) is nearer this year than any other.. I hope Alegri helps us achieve to win it this year and have a send off party for Totti as a champion!
on the 27th August, 2014 at 7:45am
Pre-season games are seldom a good indication of how the team will perform on the whole, but even so, it's unlikely our defence will be as strong as it was last year (when it was exceptional).

The truth is that it's just very hard to say. The new players all have potential but are untested at these levels. I am very much on the lookout for Astori - I've long considered him among the most underrated Serie A defenders; the question of whether he can keep up his excellence will be key.
on the 27th August, 2014 at 12:49am
Benatia going is a loss...but their defence looks good and Manolos can be for the future as well. It wont be of any use to have Benatia playing against his will...and her worked so hard and am happy that his hard work sent him to a great club as Bayern although sad that he left us in Rome as he brought so much confidence to the team.
on the 26th August, 2014 at 11:18pm
Without a doubt this is a stepdown in quality, but that does not make it bad business.
I have not seen Manolas play, but I trust Sabatini on this one and he is extremely young as well.
I would expect the defense to struggle the first 8 rounds or so, and hopefully the attack and the midfield can make up for it. Another alternative that no one has suggested yet is converting De Rossi to a CB once Strootmann recovers.
on the 26th August, 2014 at 4:49pm
Wow loosing benatia will be a massive blow to Roma and in a way Serie a he was one of the best defenders in Serie A last year and definitely one of the best players of roma, although as a juve fan i have to say this does make me slightly happy.
on the 26th August, 2014 at 10:47am
The other thing this article points out is that if and when Roma do decide to sell Benatia they have already moved to find a replacement in Astori. They've planned the replacement before selling Benatia. Meanwhile in contrast at Milan we've got 5 days to go and still no replacement for Balotelli.
on the 26th August, 2014 at 10:22am
Picture this alternative reality. Allegri goes to Roma last summer and Milan bring in Garcia. Garcia quickly assesses the situation at Milan and sees we need a CB. We sign Benatia. In this alternative reality Milan are one of the favourites for the title this season. For me that's how big a difference Garcia and Benatia make. The first players on any team sheet should be the GK and the two CBs. At Milan they're probably the last.
on the 26th August, 2014 at 10:19am

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