Replacing probably the best defender in Serie A last season is obviously a difficult task but Greece centre-back Kostas Manolas is up for the challenge after signing a five-year contract with AS Roma. "Benatia is the past, I'm the present," he said.
The 23-year-old arrives from Olympiacos FC for €13m to fill the gap left by Medhi Benatia, who is set for FC Bayern München. Roma won their first ten games last term after Benatia joined from Udinese Calcio, with Juventus needing a Serie A record points' tally to keep the Giallorossi at bay.
"Benatia is a wonderful player," said Manolas. "I have watched lots of Roma matches because [Vassilis] Torossidis plays here. However, I can just say that Benatia is the past while I'm the present.
I want to prove I'm at least as good as him and that I can play for Roma for a long time.
"I'm fast and strong physically. I'm a good tackler and I can read opposition attacks well – Thiago Silva is a player I like in my position. I want to adapt quickly to my new team and coach so I can play on a regular basis and grow as a player."
A Greek champion with Olympiacos in 2013 and 2014, Manolas also helped the Piraeus outfit reach the UEFA Champions League round of 16 last season, scoring group-stage goals against SL Benfica and Paris Saint-Germain. He will play in the same competition with Roma after an impressive FIFA World Cup with Greece in Brazil.
"I'm 120% ready to start playing this weekend if the coach wants me to," the former AEK Athens FC player said. "Expectations are high. I want the Scudetto like the rest of the team, but I think Roma have great potential and can do great things in the Champions League too. Roma are a huge club and I consider my arrival here a great step in my career, but this does not mean I will stop being ambitious."
Torossidis was not the only compatriot to advise Manolas to accept the Roma call – so did ex-Giallorossi defender Traianos Dellas. "I have talked to him and he told me Roma was the best option." Dellas went to Roma in 2002 before helping Greece win UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal. A good omen for Manolas and Greece ahead of UEFA EURO 2016?
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