Jose Mourinho may have vehemently denied that Chelsea were in the race for Mehdi Benatia recently, but sources in Italy are persisting with their claims that the Blues are holding discussions over a transfer, according to the Daily Express.
The publication details how speculation is now directly opposed to Mourinho’s insistence that Chelsea have no interest in landing Roma’s star Moroccan, and claims that negotiations are ongoing. It’s said that there’s been no official bid made from Stamford Bridge for the services of the £30 million-rated centre-back, but that the west London giants are of the opinion that he could be the long-term successor to John Terry.
The future of Benatia has been somewhat up in the air for sometime, with his manager, Rudi Garcia, hesitant to consent to any sales that will relinquish him of any of his key players, but a host of European clubs admiring the 27-year-old’s talents. Having enjoyed a successful debut campaign at the Stadio Olimpico Benatia has evolved into one of the continent’s most experienced central defenders, which places him in the category of player United and Chelsea are both looking for.
Though not necessarily in dire need of a defensive addition, Mourinho is no doubt heading into this season with one eye on the future of his club captain. Terry has been an unparalleled servant of the side in terms of his commitment to the Chelsea cause, but his advancing years means it makes sense for his manager to begin considering alternatives.
Gary Cahill is an assured presence who has years left to give but, with youngster Kurt Zouma not deemed ready yet for the rigours of the Premier League, Mourinho is short on viable backup options. The sale of David Luiz removed the only other experienced defender the club had from the equation, and Benatia seems an ideal addition given the fact that he’s about to hit his peak.
However, as is so often the case, Chelsea are going to have to fend off the advances of another Premier League rival if they plan on banking their man. United, fresh from the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, could certainly do with defensive reinforcements, and it seems if Van Gaal is intent on implementing his 3-5-2 system he needs to insert a figurehead into his back line.
The player himself hasn’t indicated that he will kick up a fuss if he isn’t allowed to move, though he’d surely be interested in a Premier League switch at this stage of his career. It could be that negotiations go on for a number of days before any resolute conclusion is reached, though at the moment it looks as though both Chelsea and United remain in contention.