Medhi Benatia's Bayern bow good for Morocco and Africa
Among the moves from Africa are some small but important ones, such as highly rated Ethiopian striker Saladin Said's from Wadi Degla to Egyptian giants Al-Ahly. Others cover less ground and may have less of an impact, like Mubarak Wakaso, the Ghanaian who has gone from Rubin Kazan to Celtic.
There were some unexpected transfers (in terms of destination), like Zambian midfielder Isaac Chansa's exit from his home country, where he played for Zanaco, to Lajong FC in the Indian Super League. And there were some surprisingly cash-driven ones like Burkina Faso's Jonathan Pitroipa, who joined the moneyed ranks with a $6.56 million move out of Europe to the UAE, where he will play for Al Jazira.
There were some who moved out of the English Premier League, like Senegalese forward Demba Ba's departure from Chelsea to Besiktas, and some who moved into it, like Nigeria striker Brown Ideye, who joined West Brom from Dynamo Kiev.
And then there was the one that made the headlines. There is often only one and this time is was Medhi Benatia who was signed by Bayern Munich for $34.15 million (21 million pounds). The Moroccan's move from AS Roma was the most lucrative among all African players and the most high-profile.
He was on the wish list of teams including Manchester United and Chelsea after just one season of forming the spine of the Roma defence during their run to the runners-up position in last season's Serie A. Ultimately, it was the German champions who won out and although Arjen Robben told reporters he does "not know him" -- save for the fact he comes from Roma -- Benatia is set to be a big part of Pep Guardiola's plans.
Bayern are set to employ a permanent back three this season, but an injury to Javi Martinez threatened to derail those plans. Martinez tore cruciate ligaments in the Super Cup and an injury of that nature can take seven to nine months to recover properly from. Guardiola admitted Bayern would "need a new player," when the diagnoses came in because, with Martinez out, he only had Jerome Boateng, Dante and Holger Badstuber at his disposal.
Benatia was identified by Bayern's director of sport, Matthias Sammer, as being "a robust defender, strong in the challenge with very good ball-playing skills." Already that suggests much will be expected from the Moroccan but he is excited by the challenge. "When you get an offer from Bayern, you cannot really say no," he said.
The spin-offs of Benatia plying his trade at one of the most well-respected clubs around should also have benefits for the African game. Morocco have become perennial underachievers who have exited the African Nations' Cup in the first round of the past two tournaments and may have struggled to qualify for next year's tournament were they not hosting it.
Because their entry is automatic, they can use the next five months to plan for how they will challenge for the title early next year. Benatia will be key to those aims and Morocco will hope that the expertise he encounters can be transported to the Atlas Lions, as well.