Premier League champions and 7/4 2014/15 title jollies Manchester City are expected to strengthen in central defence this summer, having yet failed to provide captain Vincent Kompany with a reliable partner.
The Citizens have been repeatedly linked with a move for Porto’s much-lauded stopper Eliaquim Mangala, but – according to recent reports – Manuel Pellegrini and co’s attentions have turned to Roma man Medhi Benatia of late.
Mangala made it into Didier Deschamps’ 23-man squad for Brazil, where Les Bleus are rated 4/5 favourites to top a Group E they share with Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras.
The 23-year-old was rumoured to be on the verge of an Etihad switch during the January transfer window, but with renowned hard bargain-drivers Porto thought to be holding out for a club willing to activate Mangala’s reported £38m release clause, City have been given cause to pause.
For the first time since the Abu Dhabi United Group took over six years ago, the money-men in the blue half of Manchester will have to come up with more creative ways of acquiring talent than just writing mammoth cheques, as likely Financial Fair Play sanctions must be taken into account.
With Porto conceding over 40 per cent more Primeira Liga goals than last season in 2013/14 and losing their title for the first time since 2010, such an outlay on Mangala would represent a huge risk.
Benatia – who was offered a contract by Jose Mourinho after a trial at Chelsea in 2007, but opted to stay at Marseille – is four years older than his fellow former France youth international and could be gettable for a significantly lower fee less than 12 months after arriving in the Eternal City from Udinese for €13.5m.
The 31-cap Morocco international would be forgiven for imagining what might have been in Brazil, after coming through Les Bleus’ youth ranks with World Cup-bound Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, as well as spurned seniors Hatem Ben Arfa and Samir Nasri of Newcastle and City.
That trio were handed full international debuts by Raymond Domenech in 2007, but the madcap ex-coach overlooked Benatia, leading the then 21-year-old to declare for the country of his father’s birth the following year.