Talks of Wayne Rooney, Luis Suarez, Gonzalo Higuain, and all the other big name strikers have been tossed around in the papers and the media for the majority of the transfer window, saying this player will join that team, this team will sign that player, fee agreed for this player, player is now undergoing medical, etc. But where was Christian Benteke in all this?
Well, while the Belgian was mentioned about, he was nowhere near talked about as much as others. A few stories saw Chelsea, Arsenal, and Tottenham Hotspur all being linked with him, and almost a few days after he was linked, Christian Benteke submitted a transfer request, adding even more stories and rumors to the pot.
After a week or two of speculation regarding his future, the striker finally put pen to paper on a four-year deal, rocketing the £20,000 a week salary he was on since hen he signed from Genk last summer for a mere £7m. Benteke’s change of heart/salary is a massive morale boost for Paul Lambert, knowing he’s got the Belgian who shut critics up when he benched Darren Bent, scoring goal after goal, which eventually saw him end up with an impressive 19 goals for the season. Not too bad for an £7m player.
So, what convinced him to stay? A quadruple boost of salary, or was it Paul Lambert’s doing? Perhaps something else? The guarantee of 1st team football undoubtedly played a part, but regardless, Aston Villa fans will surely be happier than usual going into next season. The Aston Villa Manager has been quoted as saying :
“It is my opinion that the best thing for Christian is to remain at Aston Villa. He enjoyed a terrific season at the club and can use that as a platform to hopefully enjoy more success this season. I’m delighted, having time to re-evaluate his future, Christian has decided to commit to the club. It’s a huge bonus and I’m sure the supporters are every bit as delighted as me to have him on board and raring to go.”
Spurs were perhaps the most interested in signing Benteke, but didn’t believe the £25m asking price for the striker (which would see Aston Villa net over a 200% profit) seemed to be worth it. As a result, they set out to seek the signatures of other strikers, preferably their newest target Roberto Soldado.
The Belgian would have fit in well in André Villas-Boas’s Tottenham Hotspur, slotting in front of Bale with two out wide men such as Sigdursson or Lennon. 1st team football would have been more of a chance at Spurs compared to other clubs such as Chelsea, where Benteke would have to compete heavily for the No. 9 spot with Fernando Torres, Demba Ba, and of course his international team-mate, Belgian Romelu Lukaku.
At Arsenal, you have the constant rotation between Giroud and Walcott, and even Podolski chipping in there occasionally, but predominantly stationed out on a left-wing position. The Aston Villa striker would have started the majority of games, sending Giroud to the bench and almost permanently stationing Walcott out wide.
But, many problems arise for many managers thinking of purchasing the tank-like Belgian. Will he be consistent enough? Is he a workhorse? Is he tactically flexible? Can he do whatever I tell him to do? These are the questions top managers like Villas-Boas, Mourinho, and Wenger would ask. And after one mere season at Aston Villa, you still don’t get a clear picture of what he can accomplish and what he cannot.
Benteke is a forward with strength that leaves defenders dreading coming up against him before a game, but this only makes up for his poor technical ability. Many times we’ve seen him use strength as a way of pushing past defenders coupled with his surprising pace, but this doesn’t hide from the fact that he’s a poor dribbler. Many times we’ve seen Benteke caught out to quick, pressing teams such as Southampton and Liverpool, lose the ball and hang his head in disappointment as the other team carry off with it. This is an aspect of his game that could improve greatly, and until it does, I can’t see him making that leap from “good” striker, to “world-class” striker. A fine example of this is Didier Drogba, who improved his technical aspect vastly in just a few seasons.
Benteke is young at 22 years of age, so where is the best destination for him? One coach that comes to mind is Arsene Wenger, a gifted manager when it comes to man-management skills, but Benteke clearly disagrees, and as a result put pen to paper on a four-year deal with Aston Villa. But will he stay that long? Is he a one-season wonder? We’ll find out the answer to both those questions come the end of the season.