'He was unbelievable' - Kevin Keegan reveals how Sunderland and Peter Reid lost out on signing Manchester City star Ali Benarbia
Kevin Keegan has hailed Ali Benarbia as an ‘unbelievable’ player for Manchester City and claimed Peter Reid missed out on signing him for Sunderland.
In a radio interview, Keegan has lifted the lid on the signing of Benarbia and claimed agent Willie McKay had rang to say he was taking him to Sunderland for a trial having just picked him up from Manchester Airport.
Keegan claims Benarbia played a practice game for the Black Cats but Reid wasn’t there to see him in action.
He ended up signing for Keegan at City and became an influential player and fan favourite.
Keegan told Radio Alty: "Ali Benarbia, who I didn't know, sat down and I was in my office and Arthur Cox, my assistant and mentor, came in to me and said, 'Do you know that player with the agent?'
"I said, 'I don't know him at all'. He said, 'That player single-handedly destroyed Newcastle United for Monaco just after you left. That guy is one of the best players I've ever seen'.
"So I thought, 'I'll go and have a chat with him'. I could see the French players loved him. You could tell they respected him so much.
"I said, 'Look, when you're on the way back, if you want to train, come and train with us'.
"He went to Sunderland and, apparently, the manager [Peter Reid] didn't even come to the practice game so he came back with us and we rigged him up with kit and he trained with us on the Thursday.
"He was unbelievable so I said to the agent, 'We'll take him'. We got him for absolutely nothing.
"He didn't want a lot of money. He just said, 'I want to play'. I said, 'Go home, get your boots'.
"He came back on the Saturday morning, I put him in the team and he got a standing ovation when he took a corner after about 20 minutes. That's how good he was."