Friday’s Forgotten goes back to football this week with a look at former Premier League striker Benjani. It was a quiz question, (who are the six African players to score more than two hat-tricks in the Premiership?) that brought Benjani to this writer’s attention only a few days ago. It really forced the thought, what ever happened to Benjani?
Benjani made his name initially with Portsmouth. Hailing from Zimbabwe, Harry Redknapp reinforced his reputation as a ‘wheeler dealer’ by bringing a new striker to Fratton Park. While struggling to make an impact at the beginning he remained a fixture in the side and he was a key component of Portsmouth’s time in the Premier League. While things have dropped dramatically for the club, a player like Benjani was an important part of their brief stint at the top tier of English football.
He scored two hat-tricks during the 2006-2007 season. He had a very good stint with Portsmouth and had a reputation as being one of the Premiership’s more reliable strikers. Interest came in from Manchester City under Sven Goran Eriksson in 2008. Benjani was part of a transfer deadline day transfer saga, and eventually made a final minute switch to the City of Manchester Stadium. There were doubts about the deal going through but he commanded a fee in the region of £7 million, which was relatively big at that time.
The African’s debut for Manchester City resulted in one of his biggest goals in a City shirt. It was a derby match against Manchester United at Old Trafford. He scored the second goal in a 2-1 victory when City beat United on the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster (skip to 1:01).
It was a great start to his City career but the former Pompey striker failed to kick on after that. His second season at City coincided with their multi-billion pound takeover. Robinho was purchased for £32.5 million as City moved onto a new level with bigger name players.
The likes of Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz and Craig Bellamy were all signed to boost the attacking department at the club and Benjani’s first team chances were limited. His highlight that season was scoring one of the first goals of Roberto Mancini’s reign as Man City manager. He scored in Mancini’s debut in the F.A Cup, in a 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough. Realistically this new Man City era was the end of Benjani’s career at the blue half of Manchester.
He left the club in the summer of 2010 when his contract expired. Spells with different English clubs followed. Benjani spent time at Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers before returning to Portsmouth. His second stint at Portsmouth was not a success and he was released after one year. He spoke of his admiration for Portsmouth when leaving. He classified them as the best times of his career.
It was a short and sweet Premier League career for the Zimbabwe man, so short that many people will have forgotten about his brief success. He is still currently playing in South Africa. He will be remembered as a short success at Portsmouth but he will mainly be remembered as a forgotten man and people will wonder ‘what ever happened to Benjani?’
Pundit Arena, Sean Cremin.