Benatia not keen on Arsenal move

Udinese defender Mehdi Benatia has poured scorn on rumours linking him with a move to Arsenal by reaffirming his commitment to the Italian club.

The Moroccan international has impressed since joining the Bianconeri from French club Clerment last summer, and his consistently solid defensive displays have been a key factor in Udinese defying pre-season expectations this term and reaching fourth place in Serie A.

Arsenal, by contrast, have struggled to achieve defensive reliability this season, and reports in several English newspapers had suggested that Gunners midfielder Samir Nasri – Benatia’s close friend and former team-mate at Olympique Marseille – had tried to persuade Arsene Wenger to sign the big centre-back, with Benatia himself admitting that the French midfielder wants him to come to Emirates Stadium.

The 23-year-old, however, told the press he does not share Nasri’s desire for him to join the Gunners.

“I am happy at the Friuli and think only of Udinese,” he said. “I signed a five-year contract and don’t want to leave before that expires. I realised from the first day I arrived here that I had joined a great club.

“I have learned so much by training alongside team-mates like Cristian Zapata and Andrea Coda. They are strong and expert defenders with over 150 Serie A appearances behind them. This team is very united, both on the field and off.”

Udinese’s excellent form in Serie A this season has given them a realistic chance of securing Champions League football for the first time since 2005.

Benatia believes he and his team-mates are more than capable of achieving the feat, provided they can maintain their formidable defensive record.

“We have many quality players, and when I look at the fixture list I think we can achieve great things together."

By Liam Twomey