Bad news for Manchester United in 'top target' Benatia pursuit

Manchester United are believed to be eyeing up Mehdi Benatia, but the task of signing him may soon get even more difficult.

The Moroccan only arrived at AS Roma over the past summer from Udinese, where he had made his name in Italian football after beginning his career in birth nation France.

The capital club sunk considerable investment into his capture, doling out €13.5m fee and entering into co-ownership agreements for talented youngster Nico Lopez and Velerio Verre with the Zebrette.

Since joining Rudi Garcia’s Giallorossi the central defender has gone from strength to strength, anchoring Serie A’s best defence alongside Leandro Castan with 16 clean sheets to his credit and five goals to boot.

Benatia has understandably been an instant hit with the club’s supporters as Roma sit in second place on table, though his exploits of course have not gone unnoticed from elsewhere.

United have reportedly identified the 26-year-old as their ‘top priority’ to replace the outgoing Nemanja Vidic and rebuild an ailing back line under David Moyes.

The chances of a transfer were always going to be difficult, given that Benatia only just landed at the Stadio Olimpico, and has been a key player for a burgeoning side likely to qualify the Champions League - something that isn’t the case on the red side of Manchester.

As if another setback was needed for the Red Devils, Corriere dello Sport have now maintained that Roma are already keen to offer the stopper an improved contract to secure his future.

Benatia’s initial terms with the Serie A giants already run until 2018, but the newspaper claim that Garcia’s outfit will soon meet with his agent to offer a salary boost from €1.2m net per season to €2m.

The Morocco international - recently dropped from is national side due to a disagreement with the coach - has previously acknowledged his happiness in Rome and looks increasingly unlikely to leave for Old Trafford.

image: © mike wright

Register for MANCHESTER UNITED team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch