5 goals, 13 clean sheets - This centre-back was the man for Liverpool

Liverpool were linked with AS Roma’s Mehdi Benatia in the past, but never made interest concrete.

The Reds brought in three additions at centre-back over the summer – Mamadou Sakho, Kolo Toure and Tiago Ilori – to the tune of £22m.

At £15m the Frenchman proved the most expensive of the trio and has fared well during his time at Anfield – though hasn’t exactly been ever-present with 12 Premier League appearances.

Free capture Toure has provided veteran solidity at the back, whilst the young Portuguese is yet to feature for the first team and has made the bench just twice.

As Liverpool were bolstering their defensive ranks during the summer with the triumvirate – Sakho and Tiago Ilori weren’t secured until deadline day – Roma snuck in to take Benatia off of Udinese’s hands for £11m.

The Moroccan had spent a brilliant three-and-a-half seasons at the Stadio Friuli, anchoring a side that regularly punched above its weight and beat out more illustrious competitors for European qualification.

In 2012 the Reds had taken notice of the former Marseille man alongside Arsenal and were thought to be on the verge of making a bid for his services, though nothing ever came of their reported interest.

Instead Benatia would remain in the northeast of Italy until early July of 2013 – when the Giallorossi came calling to beat out any potential challengers early doors.

And how happy the capital outfit have been to have the oft-underrated centre-back, as he’s combined with Leandro Castan to form a formidable partnership – with Roma conceding only 10 Serie A goals thus far.

Following a 3-0 defeat to a tactical masterclass from Juventus a fortnight ago, Benatia has stood tall as Rudi Garcia’s defence haven’t allowed a single shot on target in two straight league contests.

During the same period Brendan Rodgers’ charges have conceded five times – with many placing the onus on a dearth of defensively-minded options in midfield – but one would be hard-pressed to say the Morocco international wouldn’t have made a profound difference.

At £11m he would’ve cost significantly less than Sakho, and yet brought greater experience and consistency to the squad, along with a significant goal-scoring threat to pair with his excellence at the back.

Liverpool’s purchases were by no means misguided – the Frenchman looks primed to develop into a top player whilst Tiago Ilori is one for the future – though a 26-year-old Benatia could’ve provided what’s necessary both at present and down the road.

So the Reds will continue on with what they’ve got – certainly nothing to turn one’s nose up at – yet it remains an intriguing proposition what could’ve been had Roma’s voracious stopper ended up on Merseyside.

image: © Damien Cansse

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