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Benjamin "Benjani" Mwaruwari (born 13 August 1978) is a Zimbabweanmarker footballer who plays for Manchester City as a striker. He was born to parents of Malawianmarker descent and has chosen to represent his nation of birth, Zimbabwe, internationally.

Early career

Benjani began his career at the 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.

Europe

Benjani moved to Grasshoppers Zürich of Switzerlandmarker on loan in 2001. In 2002, Guy Roux took him to AJ Auxerre of Francemarker. 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. 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.

This transfer from Auxerre to Portsmouth in January 2006 is one of those about which the Stevens inquiry report in June 2007 expressed concerns:

“Agent Willie McKay acted for the selling club, Auxerre, in the transfer of Benjani and, for the same reason as above” {still awaiting clarification) “the inquiry is not prepared to clear these transfers at this stage.”

“In relation to Benjani’s transfer, the enquiry also has identified concerns regarding the role of (agent) Teni Yerima and (third party) Ralph N’Komo”.

Portsmouth

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 both the 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 Parkmarker. 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.

Manchester City

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 be made if the player makes up to 75 senior starts which would raise the fee to a total of £7.6 million. His wage is 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 Stadiummarker 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 second goal came in the 3–2 home loss against Fulham, from a cross from Darius Vassell, which left Benjani to poke the ball in from six yards. He returned to his former self with his goal celebration to please the Manchester City supporters.

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 F.C., West Ham United F.C. and Stoke City F.C. of the Premier League and League Two club Notts County F.C..

International career

He is the current Zimbabwe national team captain, having taken the armband from Peter Ndlovu after the 2006 African Cup of Nations.

Benjani is the third Zimbabwean to play in the English Premiership after goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar and Ndlovu.

Benjani is a key figure in the development of football in Zimbabwe. During the run up to the 2006 African Cup of Nations, he provided the funding for the senior national team's stay in France when they were preparing for the African soccer showcase.

Many Zimbabwean journalists, including Fidel M. Bondamakara,Marvellous M Muvengwa, are of the view that Benjani's contributions will go a long way in upgrading Zimbabwean soccer standards. After Zimbabwe's failure to qualify for the 2008 African Cup of Nations he is expected to spearhead the campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in neighbouring South Africa.

Name

In the Ngonde language, his name should read Mwaluwali but because the Shona language uses 'R' in place of 'L', since 'L' is not part of the Shona alphabet, his name now reads Mwaruwari.

References

  1. Portsmouth sign striker Mwaruwari, BBC News, 6 January 2006.
  2. http://www.mirrorfootball.co.uk/news/Benjani-rejects-West-Ham-for-Notts-County-article142219.html
  3. http://www.extrafootie.co.uk/clubs/detailed/portsmouth/20242/
  4. http://www.tribalfootball.com/notts-county-outbid-hull-portsmouth-man-citys-benjani-291031


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