Algerian international centre-back Djamel Benlamri joined Olympique Lyonnais at the end of the summer 2020 transfer window as a free agent, having bought out the final nine months of his contract with Al-Shabab in Saudi Arabia.
He was recruited primarily to provide cover for first choice central defensive partnership Jason Denayer and Marcelo, after Joachim Anderson and Marçal left the club during the same transfer window. Along with the rapidly emerging talent of Sinaly Diomandé, his arrival brings the complement of centre-backs at Lyon back up to four.
A few months shy of his 31st birthday, Benlamri is making his first foray into European football, having spent the entirety of his career thus far playing in his native Algeria and in Saudi Arabia. Born in Algiers, he began his career with local club Nasr Athletic Hussein Dey and spent three seasons yo-yo-ing between the top two divisions with them.
His performances earned him a move to Jeunesse Sportive de Kabylie in Tizi Ouzou and he became a pillar of their defense for three seasons as they finished 7th, 2nd and then 12th in the Algerian Ligue 1. IN summer 2015 Entente Sportive Sétifienne paid around €50,000 for his services but he only spent one season at the Sétif based club, finishing 5th in Ligue 1 and winning the Super Cup before moving on to Al-Shabab.
Benlamri began his career as a fullback and has also played in central midfield but it was during his time in Saudi Arabia that he was converted to centre-back, with much success. The change of position brought about a call-up to the Algerian national squad and he made his debut for Les Fennecs in November 2018 against Togo.
The following summer he was an integral part of the team that won the Africa Cup of Nations 2019 in Egypt, playing all of his country’s matches apart from the opening game and helping to keep a clean sheet in the final against Senegal. He now has fourteen international caps to his name.
His four seasons in the Saudi Pro League saw Al Shabab finish between fifth and tenth in the table without any decent cup runs so the 2015 Algerian Super Cup aside, the only time he has come close to winning any domestic honours was back in 2013-14 with JS Kabylie when they were runners up in the league and cup.
Given Paris Saint-Germain’s dominance, it looks unlikely that he’ll be able to get his hands on any silverware with his new club in France, and his lack of European experience suggests that he’ll be little more than a bit-part player at Lyon, although his record with Algeria shows that he is a competent defender who should be dependable when called upon.