Rovers assess Benjani knee before signing him
English Premiership side Blackburn Rovers are weighing a move for free agent Zimbabwean striker Benjani Mwaruwari after he was released by big spending Manchester City.
Rover’s manager Sam Allardyce told us “we know what he can do on the field of play, which is reassuring.” Its Benjani’s troublesome knee however which is a source of worry for the manager.
It’s now up to Benjani to pass a rigorous fitness test with Blackburn Rovers and seal what could be one of the best free transfer deals for the club in years.
Born in Bulawayo, Benjani began his career at Lulu Rovers, Zimba Africa Rivers, University of Zimbabwe teams in Zimbabwe’s Division one and Air Zimbabwe Jets in the country’s Premier League in 1999.
He moved to South African club Jomo Cosmos in 1999 where he met his mentor Jomo Sono, after impressing in the friendly match between South Africa and Zimbabwe that was played to commemorate the inauguration of Thabo Mbeki as the president of South Africa.
In 2001, he was voted PSL Player of the Season and PSL Players’ Player of the Season in South Africa. Benjani moved to Grasshoppers Zürich of Switzerland on loan in 2001. In 2002, Guy Roux took him to AJ Auxerre of France.
Benjani had a good run at the start, capitalising from Djibril Cissé’s absence, becoming top goalscorer in Ligue 1. Roux never played the two together, and eventually Benjani found himself surplus to requirements under Roux’s successor, Jacques Santini, this time forced out of the 4–5–1 formation by Luigi Pieroni.
While at Auxerre, Benjani score the opening goal in the 2005 Coupe de France final On 5 January 2006 Premier League club Portsmouth signed him from Auxerre for £4.1 million after Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger recommended the player to Harry Redknapp.
After failing to score in his first fourteen games for the club, Benjani finally got his first goal for Portsmouth against Wigan Athletic on 29 April 2006 in a 2–1 victory which saw Portsmouth avoid relegation from the Premier League.
On 29 September 2007, Benjani scored his first hat-trick for Portsmouth in a 7–4 win over Reading, which broke the record for the most number of goals scored in a Premier League match, and a league match shown on Match of the Day. After Portsmouth’s visit to Wigan on 20 October, Benjani became the Premier League’s top scorer.
Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp banned Benjani from taking any further penalties after he missed a spot-kick in second-half injury time in a home game against West Ham United. He then made amends for his miss scoring in the 4–1 victory over Newcastle United to bring his total to eight for the season.
He then scored his ninth of the season, albeit a consolation goal in a 4–1 defeat at Liverpool. On 19 January 2008, Benjani earned his second Portsmouth hat-trick, scoring all of his side’s goals in a 3–1 victory over Derby County at Fratton Park. This took his tally for the season to 12 and subsequently resulted in him revising his target for the season, which had been 10.
Benjani’s goalscoring form during the first half of the 2007–08 season cemented Manchester City manager Sven-Göran Eriksson’s interest in the striker, and on 31 January 2008 he had a bid of around £8m accepted for the transfer of the player.
However, it was revealed that Benjani had missed two successive planes to Manchester (supposedly due to his falling asleep at the airport), meaning he didn’t arrive at the clubs training ground until 11.10pm, leaving insufficient time to complete a move before the midnight deadline.
Portsmouth had already confirmed the signing of Benjani’s replacement, Jermain Defoe, for a fee in the region of £9 million from Tottenham Hotspur, with the impending sale of Benjani supposedly funding the majority of the transfer.
A transfer was completed for Benjani to move to Manchester City on 5 February 2008 for a fee of £3.87 million. Further payments could have been made if the player had made up to 75 senior starts which would raise the fee to a total of £7.6 million. His wage was reported at £50,000 a week. His debut came on 10 February 2008 against rivals Manchester United in a 2–1 victory to City.
He scored the second goal from a header in his first Manchester derby. His first goal at the City of Manchester Stadium was ironically against his former club Portsmouth on 20 April 2008, although Benjani refused to celebrate after the goal out of respect for his former club, stating in a post match interview that he would never celebrate a goal against Portsmouth because the club and its fans had been so good to him. His next goal came in the 3–2 home loss against Fulham.
After a lengthy thigh injury, Benjani made a goal scoring return for the reserves, before following this up days later by making an impact as a second half substitute, scoring what would be the winning goal in City’s 3–2 win over FC Twente. He scored again in the UEFA Cup with an away goal against FC Schalke 04. His former club Portsmouth were fined £15,000 for his transfer to and from the club, after they were found to have breached transfer rules.
He entered talks with Hull City over a transfer to the club in August 2009, but negotiations ended after he failed to agree personal terms. He was also linked with a return to former club Portsmouth as well asWest Ham United and Stoke City of the Premier League and League Two club Notts County.
Under new Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini Benjani started his first game of the 2009–10 season in a third round FA Cup tie away to Middlesbrough on 2 January 2010, during which he scored the only goal just before half time in a 1–0 win.
On 2 February 2010, Benjani moved to Sunderland on loan until the end of the season, after the Premier League confirmed that the paperwork had been completed before the transfer deadline. On 18 May 2010 Steve Bruce, manager of Sunderland AFC confirmed that Benjani would not be offered a permanent deal.
On 8 June 2010, Benjani was released by Manchester City after two seasons contracted at the club. After a month of being a free agent, it was revealed that Benjani was training with Premier League team Blackburn Rovers in the hopes of earning a deal with the club.