AS Roma president James Pallotta has released a statement hitting out at Mehdi Benatia and accused his former defender of lying.
Benatia told the German publication Kicker that he had intended to stay with Roma this summer, but it was the Italian club’s idea to sell the player in order to raise funds. The Morocco international was then sold to Bayern Munich for approximately £24 million.
“Walter Sabatini (Roma’s director of football) told me the club wanted to keep me, but that they needed to earn money so he had to sell me,” the defender told Kicker.
“That got me mad because I wanted to stay.”
But Roma’s president has refuted those allegations and given the Italian club’s version of the events that transpired over the summer.
“Mehdi Benatia has obviously continued with his pattern of outright fabrications over the last couple of months,” Pallotta said in an official statement.
“We had a verbal agreement on compensation and a raise back in July in Boston. He [Benatia] personally said to me that he was happy after I told him flat out with no exceptions that we wanted him to stay.”
“Over the following month he lied about wanting to stay and about the details of his compensation to both Rudi Garcia [Roma’s manager] and his teammates.”
“Lying to me was one thing which I can somewhat handle. Lying to Rudi Garcia and his teammates was completely unacceptable to me.”
“I told Walter Sabatini he [Benatia] was becoming a poison and I wanted him gone, and Rudi and Walter agreed.”
“It wasn’t about the money; it was about having character in our locker room. We are in a very sound financial position. As owners of Roma, we make difficult decisions all the time. As a fan of Roma, I am deeply disappointed that one of our players could act this way.”
Club officials have pointed towards the fact that they were able to retain Daniele De Rossi and Miralem Pjanic this summer. Roma is also moving forward with a plan to build a beautiful new 52,000-capacity stadium (Stadio della Roma) which will invoke the Colosseum of ancient Rome, but will also add modernized touches like a hydraulic lift that will allow players a dramatic entrance; in a similar fashion to the gladiatorial lifts which were once used in the Colosseum.
The stadium will make Roma only the second Serie A club to play in their own arena, the other being Juventus.