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Benarbia on Pep, Berkovic and his time at City


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He may have only been at City for two seasons, but Ali Benarbia made a huge impression.

Signed by Kevin Keegan on a free transfer in the days before YouTube and endless football analysis took the mystery away from new signings, the Algerian midfielder had been on trial at Sunderland just before his arrival at Maine Road. 

Their failure to take a chance on the former Monaco and PSG man turned out to be City’s gain.

His technical quality was immediately evident, as was his ability to pick a pass. Keegan played him alongside another playmaker, Eyal Berkovic, and the pair struck up a wonderful understanding.

His first season at the club saw City win promotion to the Premier League, winning the club’s Player of the Year award. City scored 108 goals en route to the Division One title, winning a remarkable 99 points. 

He then regularly captained the side in his second season as City consolidated their place in the top flight with a ninth-place finish.

He played in a friendly against Barcelona to open the City of Manchester Stadium (as the Etihad was then known) before retiring.

On Sunday, ahead of the game with Arsenal, Club journalist David Clayton spoke to Benarbia about Pep Guardiola, Kevin Keegan and his relationship with Berkovic.