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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb 8, 2008

Benjani 'shocked' by Pompey exit

Manchester City striker Benjani Mwaruwari has revealed he did not want to leave Portsmouth and was 'shocked' to be sold in the January transfer window.

The Zimbabwe forward had been in fine form for Pompey in the first half of the season but was sold to City on transfer deadline day in order to fund a move for Tottenham striker Jermain Defoe.

The transfer almost did not happen because Benjani was reported to have arrived at City too late, but it was later sanctioned by Premier League officials who agreed all the necessary paperwork had been completed in time.

Benjani claims he had settled at the south coast club and, having scored 12 goals in the league campaign, was loath to move.

'It was never my choice to leave Pompey because of the special relationship that I had with the supporters, with my team-mates and with the coach,' he told Zimbabwean newspaper The Herald.

'I was very happy at Pompey and I think this season I showed that I had settled down well and I was beginning to produce the goals for the club.

'There are some things in football that are more important than money and one of those things is a special relationship a player can enjoy with the supporters and the coach.

'I had all that at Portsmouth and I was really enjoying myself playing football in a very good environment and knowing that everyone was happy with what I was doing for the club.'

The 29-year-old admits he was surprised to learn of his proposed move just two days before the January 31 deadline.

'I was shocked when I was told on Tuesday that I was going to be sold to Manchester City before the transfer window closed,' he said.

'I did not know the two clubs had been talking about a transfer and I only knew on Tuesday that there were plans for me to go elsewhere.

'I asked for the reason why I was being sold and they told me that it was a good business deal since Manchester City were paying a lot of money - especially considering my age - and they could also get younger players in return.'

Benjani conceded that protracted talks for an improved contract between him and the Pompey management might have strained his relationship with the club.

'We had agreed new terms with the management on the improved contract but they said that they could only bring it into effect at the beginning of next season,' he said.

'I told them that if that was the case then I would not sign the contract until the beginning of the new season and I believe that is when things took a new twist.

'Maybe when Manchester City came looking for a striker, the management decided it was time for me to go.'

Benjani, however, believes the move might prove a blessing in disguise.

'It was tough to leave Portsmouth and I was late leaving my home for Manchester because I kept asking myself all day whether this was all true,' he added.

'I kept telling myself that it was all a bad dream and I would wake up the following day and still be a Pompey player. But this was not a dream.

'I arrived there late because of one or two reasons and when I looked at the contract they were offering me, I could not believe it and I just signed there and then.

'It's the best deal, in terms of remuneration, in my entire career and I was just happy with the respect I had received from Manchester City so I signed after a few minutes.

'It's not easy for a 29-year-old African player to get such a deal in Europe.'

Benjani was also impressed with Manchester City's efforts to ensure they signed him.

He said: 'The manager Sven-Goran Eriksson made the long journey to London on transfer deadline day to get my work permit and you have to respect that.

'It's not every day that you get a manager of Eriksson's calibre travelling such long distances to ensure that a player's work permit is in order.

'Even when things did not appear to be going on well, Eriksson was still confident that everything would be fine.

'He asked me three times whether I had made up my mind to join City and he said he would give me all the support I need.

'It's a fresh challenge and maybe it was also the time for me to face such a fresh challenge.'