Le50 2017 – Ramy Bensebaini
Like every good defensive pairing, a complement of styles always works best. For Rennes, to play alongside the powerful and intense Joris Gnagnon, there is the slightly more elegant, laid-back style of Ramy Bensebaini. Whilst the 22-year-old Algerian hasn’t quite hit the levels of his young partner in crime, that shouldn’t detract from what has still been a very good season.
Many Rennes fans were mildly surprised the club pulled off the signing of Bensebaini in summer 2017, after the player had impressed whilst on loan with Montpellier the season before. That air of optimism was mirrored by a feeling of disappointment from supporters of Montpellier that their club had failed to invoke their option to buy which was included in the loan deal.
Having grown up playing for his hometown team CS Constantine initially, Bensebaini moved to the capital Algiers as he signed for Paradou AC. It was there that he saw his first experience of professional football. After a season with the club, he was sent out on loan to Belgian side Lierse, this after trials at the likes of Nice, Arsenal and Porto. He impressed in his season in Belgium and was sent out on loan once again the following season to Montpellier. It was with La Paillade that he arguably experienced his breakthrough season and it was thanks to those performances that he found himself snapped up by Rennes, under the stewardship of his former Algerian coach Christian Gourcuff.
His season with Rennes has by and large been a successful one as he forged a strong partnership with Gnagnon. Going into the start of the season, Edson Mexer and Pedro Mendes were seen as the first choice centre-back pairing. It is a testament to Bensebaini’s talent that he almost immediately forced himself into the reckoning. He was even able to force newly-appointed club captain Mendes out of position and into a right back role so that Bensebaini could be accommodated. In addition to playing at the heart of the defence, Bensebaini can be deployed at left back, a role he was asked to fill on more than one occasion last season. However it is definitely at centre back that he shines most.
His 6’ 2” frame and slightly more slender physique work well with the shorter, broader Gnagnon. This allows Bensebaini to dominate in the air, an area he himself identifies as his strongest characteristic. He is however just as comfortable with the ball at his feet and thanks to his spells playing at left back, is more than willing to bring the ball out of defence. In addition to these positive attributes, Bensebaini has developed a great reading of the game and his partnership with Gnagnon has blossomed into one where they seem to have a real understanding of where the other is.
Whilst not appearing as strong as his defensive colleague, Bensebaini is more than happy to wade into a tackle. This though does lead on to his major weakness: discipline. Whilst four yellows and two reds (incidentally both were in the two games against Lyon) is actually a pretty good return for a defender, one is always left wincing once he throws himself into a challenge. So far he has largely got away with it. However, there’s a feeling of when and not if, a stern talking to from the referee, or worse, will happen. To truly make it to the next level he will need to be more considered when going in for a tackle.
Despite this, Bensebaini has found himself the focus of transfer speculation with both Inter Milan and Lille, under a Marcelo Bielsa revolution, proving to be big fans. There is a feeling that a move to a bigger club is coming and should that happen, they will benefit from a classy and committed defender.