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Happy To Be Blue! MCFC Player Profile: Ali Benarbia

Players Profile

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Ali Benarbia
Algeria D.O.B:00/00/00
Written by Happy Axeman

Ali Benarbia signed a two year deal the day before his debut against Birmingham City on Saturday 15th September. The former French First Division player of the year had an impressive debut, his touch and vision creating two of the three City goals.

The Algerian, who is fluent in English, German and Arabic, has won a Championship at every club where he has played his football. It started with a French Division 2 medal with his first club, Martigues and was followed by Divsion 1 honours with Monaco, Bordeaux and Paris St. Germain.

The stylish midfielder was released by PSG on a free transfer and despite a trial at Premiership outfit, Sunderland he accepted Kevin Keegan's offer to join the Blues saying that the manager had been a hero when he was a player at Liverpool.

He scored successive goals in his second and third appearances in a City shirt at Coventry and Sheffield Wednesday. He continued to light up the Division with his skill and inventiveness and proved to be a big influence on the development of Shaun Wright-Phillips.

A sending off in the win over Millwall at Maine Road meant he missed City's FA Cup defeat at Newcastle which would have provided a magnificent stage on which to display his talents and to test himself against a Premiership side.

He proved an invaluable component in the side in the closing two months of the season as fellow playmaker, Eyal Berkovic was sidelined with an ankle injury. The sorcerer scored a wonderful solo goal at Crewe and a crucial strike at Rotherham to earn the Blues a priceless draw.

He was on fire in the game against Barnsley at Maine Road when City clinched the Division title setting up Darren Huckerby's three goals.
Voted the Player of the Year by the City fans and by the fans across the globe in the online poll to find the City Player of the Year.

Kevin Keegan handed the dynamic midfielder the captain's armband for the start of City's Premiership campaign and extended his contract keeping the Algerian at City for a further year and the chance to play for the Blues in the new stadium.

But the new skipper struggled, in the words of manager, Kevin Keegan to find, "his Premiership legs" and despite the dominant part that he played in the promotion season the boss dropped him to the bench for the trip to Birmingham where the Blues picked up their first win away from home in their Premiership campaign.

After six weeks on the bench the midfielder came on as a second half substitute against Charlton when City were losing 2-0. The Algerian changed the game and with his first touch set up Marc Vivien Foe for City first. His corner subsequently led to City's second to earn them a share of the points.

Scored succesive goals in the defeat by Spurs and then the Boxing Day win over Aston Villa after he had come on as a second half substitute in both games. Made his first start since the end of October in the 1-0 win over Fulham on Saturday 28th December.

Played a crucial role in City's 1-1 when he came on to replace Eyal Berkovic at Old Trafford with four minutes of normal time remaining. His first touch was the free kick which led to Shaun Goater's headed equaliser.

Had something of a flourish towards the end of his first season in the Premiership starting in the final five games of the season with an impressive performance in the penultimate game at Liverpool when City won 2-1.

Berkovic replaced Ali Benarbia in Sunday's 2-1 friendly win over Barcelona. Benarbia, who is leaving the club for the money-rich Qatari league, received a standing ovation from the 36,000 crowd when he was substituted on the half-hour.

He said: "I've been playing for 15 years and this was a good way to finish. It was the best for me.

"John Wardle (City chairman) has told me to treat Manchester City like my home. So maybe I will come back to watch a Uefa Cup match or a game at the end of the season and see my friends again because this club is a very special place for me."