Manchester United has had a £24 million bid accepted for AS Roma centre-back Mehdi Benatia, according to several reports.
The Morocco international had been rumored to be closing in on a move to Chelsea in recent days, but United entered the race to sign the defender in the past 48 hours and appear to have beaten their Premier League rivals to the highly-rated player.
CNN pundit Tancredi Palmeri broke the news of Manchester United’s involvement with the player earlier today. Benatia did not make the bench for Roma’s 4-1 friendly win over Austrian side Wiener Sportklub yesterday.
Reports continued to surface as Jim White from Sky Sports broke news of a deal between the two clubs (via his Twitter account).
Now reports surfacing from Italy have stated that the defender is on his way to England to finalize the transfer.
Chelsea needed to sell at least one foreign player before they could have signed Benatia, because they would have exceeded their allowed quota under Premier League rules. Speculation is Jose Mourinho had been trying to sell Andre Schurrle to Atletico Madrid to free up that space. But it appears that deal has taken too long or the Portuguese manager has just decided to pull out of any negotiations.
Manchester City also came close to completing a deal for Benatia earlier this summer, but those negotiations broke down.
The 27-year-old defender has been linked with various European clubs following a string of stellar seasons in Serie A.
Benatia was born in France to a Moroccan father and Algerian mother. He was selected for the France U18 squad in 2005, but eventually chose Morocco in 2006. He has been a Moroccan international since 2008, making 31 appearances for his country. The centre-back has consistently been one of the standout performers of the African Cup of Nations over the past few years.
Benatia joined Roma last season from Udinese in an £11 million deal, which also saw two player go the opposite way. He started his professional career with the Ligue 1 side, Marseille.
The highly-rated centre-back anchored what was considered the best defense in Serie A while making 33 appearances for the Giallorossi and helping the Italian side qualify for this season’s Champions League; Roma also won its first ten consecutive games in 2013-14 (a Serie A record).