Saturday April 12 2014
Benatia: 'Roma passion enormous'

Mehdi Benatia has been won over by the “enormous passion” of Roma fans and it has become his dream to win here.

The defender joined from Udinese over the summer, rejecting offers from clubs in the Champions League to start a new project at the Stadio Olimpico.

“Rome is a spectacular city. I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful, but I’m happy to live every day in a place like this,” he told Sky Sport Italia’s I Signori del Calcio show.

“I am fortunate to play for Roma, as the support of the fans is always around you and after a win you can see how happy they are. There are supporters of all ages and I didn’t expect this enormous passion.

“I grew up in Marseille and they are the French club with the most passionate fans, but it’s totally different to what you get at Roma. Marseille won the Champions League and now it’s up to Roma. I’d love to see how the city would react to that.

“I miss Udinese, as it was an important step in my career and I bonded with many people. I do go back there when I have time, as I cannot forget those who did so much for me.

“Francesco Guidolin is older than Rudi Garcia and has more experience. I thought he was cold at the start, but he’s just very concentrated on his work and doesn’t laugh very much. He never gives up and is always tense, even in the most successful periods.”

Garcia was a surprise for Serie A supporters, but Benatia pointed out he already knew Roma were getting a great Coach.

“He has a big reputation in France. He’s always got a joke ready, he’s different to Guidolin, but they are both wonderful people.

“What’s it like working with Antonio Di Natale and Francesco Totti? Di Natale is more of a hitman, while Totti is a trequartista. When I was a kid I remember watching Roma and he was playing on the wing.

“These are two champions who can do anything, but are also very young in their minds. With Checco I talk about the same things as I do with Miralem Pjanic, who is 23. When he’s in shape, he makes games easier for Roma.

“Gervinho had lost confidence at Arsenal, but in Italy there aren’t many players with his characteristics, as he runs straight at opponents. He could’ve scored a few more goals, but he is never tired.”

Roma host Atalanta this evening in a bid to keep the Scudetto race alive a little longer, as they are eight points behind Juventus.

“We are doing great and won so many games, but also dropped points where we shouldn’t have done,” continued the Morocco international.

“We never gave up, but you can’t win every Sunday. We have to compliment Juve, who always had the right attitude.”

Manchester City have been linked with a swoop for Benatia and there is a very specific reason why.

“Samir Nasri is like a brother to me. I was in the French second division and just recovered from a cruciate ligament injury when he called and said Arsenal were looking for a defender. I thanked him and said no.

“I spoke to Arsene Wenger after the Champions League play-off with Udinese and he already knew me, because Nasri had talked about me. I don’t know if he talked to Manchester City about me, but I am at Roma and I’m not thinking about it.

“We have to end the season the same way we started it. I don’t like that I am constantly being linked to other clubs. I am happy here and we are going into the Champions League. Then the club will decide, so if they tell me that I have to be sold because there’s a huge offer, then I’ll go. But I am not thinking about leaving.

“What is my football dream? To win at least one trophy with Roma. If we can win something here, it’ll be enormously satisfying.”

Benatia was also asked about his views on how to deal with racist chanting in stadiums.

“I can’t say that if I hear a chant against me then I’ll stop playing, as they are two or three stupid people and I prefer to pretend I haven’t heard them. People who come to the stadium want to enjoy themselves, so the others don’t deserve respect and talking about them is pointless.”