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Writing On The Wall For Benjani?

CAN Benjani Mwaruwari stand the heat at Manchester City?


It is a question that’s probably rumbling through the mind of the Zimbabwe soccer captain as he recovers from an injury that has kept him out of the first weeks of the English Premiership and will also see him sit out the Warriors’ World Cup/Afcon qualifier with Guinea in Harare on Sunday.

Manchester City this week staged a transfer market coup when they snatched Brazilian sensation Robinho under the noses of a chasing Chelsea. The Brazilian had been on the wanted list of the London giants but City, who are in the process of changing ownership from wealthy Thai businessman Thaksin Shinawatra to the Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG), shocked the football world on Monday when it unveiled the 24-year-old forward player from Real Madrid for a British record fee of £35,2 million.

Few weeks ago City also signed Shaun Wright-Phillips, ironically, from Chelsea. The fringe England winger makes a return to his boyhood club after failing to command a first team place at the star-studded Chelsea outfit.

Both Robinho and Wright-Phillips are young at 24 and 26, and given opportunities that were scarce at their former clubs, they will blossom. They are hugely-talented, pacey, skillful and can also score goals at a good rate.

None of these attributes are possessed by Benjani, who thrives on a power-game and a high work-rate. But is that what new manager Mark Hughes will be looking for? I get a feeling that by signing these two, they have made it quite clear that that they want to play the expansive type football, which may mean Benjani’s playing chances will be slim in that that kind of formation.

This will leave him in a limbo after joining City from Portsmouth in the last season’s mid-season transfer window.

But Benjani will take comfort in that both Robinho and Wright-Phillips are naturally wide players, so will not directly threaten his place because he is an out-and-out striker.

But before you even think about that, you realise that in the off-season City bought Brazilian hotshot Jo, a highly-skilful striker who was the target of bigger European clubs before settling for the very ambitious Manchester City.

His skill is the most prominent aspect of his game, but he is also deadly in front of goal, scoring 44 goals in 77 matches for Russian club CSKA Moscow.

Then there is also the Englishman Darius Vassell, a dribbling wizard and proven goalscorer who also joined City last season.

Benjani has to pull up his socks or find himself excess to requirement once more in his European career.

Under pressure to bring results, former Blackburn boss Hughes will have to make bold decisions to compliment his board’s activity on the transfer market. One of the decisions could be to off load some players, and Benjani could easily fall victim to the revolution sweeping across English football.

Another disadvantage for Benjani is that he was brought to The Blues under the reign of former manager Sven-Göran Eriksson, an admirer of the Bulawayo-born bustling forward.

The Swede left City in the off-season and moved to Mexico to take charge of the national side.

For Benjani what this means is he finds himself having to start afresh by impressing the new coach.

He will feel like a new signing.

In a nutshell, he has to pull up his socks or find himself excess to requirement once more in his European career.

By Enock Muchinjo


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