After a brilliant first campaign for the centre-back at the Stadio Olimpico, Mehdi Benatia and employers Roma have endured mutual tension this summer.
The Moroccan admitted having his head turned by some over Europe’s superpowers in May with talks over a pay rise not yielding what he had hoped for.
Benatia has in turn been heavily touted for a lucrative transfer away from the Eternal City over the past months, though Roma have repeatedly suggested he won’t be going anywhere.
Manchester United and Chelsea are the latest clubs to be tipped to move for the £30 million-rated defender, both possessing the financial clout to meet his expensive valuation.
Should the Giallorossi land one of these reported targets, United and Chelsea’s chances of landing arguably the best defender in Serie A will receive a big boost.
Following are the five men the Premier League giants should be hoping Roma can get their hands on to free up Benatia to come to English shores.
1. Eder Alvarez Balanta - Seen as the future of Colombia’s back line, the River Plate man made his World Cup debut with the Cafeteros this summer at 21-years-old. Balanta’s club president admitted that the youngster has asked to leave for Europe, with a £6 million price-tag on his head. West Ham have been linked with a move for his services alongside Roma, whilst Liverpool were also said to be interested before snapping up Dejan Lovren from Southampton.
2. Kostas Manolas - The 23-year-old anchored the Greek defense at the World Cup alongside Sokratis and won himself plenty of admirers in the process. Manolas’ agent has revealed extensive interest from across Europe for his client, who Olympiakos will reportedly only consider selling for £10 million minimum. Arsenal are said to be keen to sign Manolas as the successor to Thomas Vermaelen, and thus are Roma’s main rivals for his signature.
3. Vlad Chiriches - Roma were in hot pursuit of the Romanian last summer before Tottenham scooped him up, looking to sign him alongside Croatian teenager Tin Jedvaj and Benatia himself. Chiriches struggled to assert himself in his debut campaign in North London, and it’s now been suggested he could make a quick exit to the Stadio Olimpico. Whether Spurs would be willing to cut their losses on a player that only arrived a year ago remains to be seen.
4. Ron Vlaar - Vlaar’s brilliant World Cup campaign under Louis van Gaal shed new light on his abilities, with Aston Villa now fighting to lock him down to a new contract. The Dutchman is by far the most experienced of Roma’s five reported centre-back targets, set to turn 30 in February. Italian rivals Juventus and Lazio are also rumoured to be in pursuit of the former Feyenoord man.
5. Tiago Casasola - Whilst Balanta is seen as the future of Colombia’s defence, Casasola is seen the same way for Argentina’s back line. The agent of the 19-year-old Boca Juniors man has confirmed contact with Roma, calling Italy a country of intrigue. Casasola has been described as a mix between Thiago Silva and Gerard Pique, and has also been the subject of enquiries from Premier League clubs.