Christian Benteke has followed up his end-of-season words that he wants to leave Aston Villa by handing in a formal transfer request.
Benteke’s star rose in 2013 as only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi scored more goals in an elite domestic league. He was the focal point and leader of Aston Villa’s surge from the depths of relegation struggle to what ended up as a fairly comfortable survival.
His combination of pace, power and goals made him one of the most dangerous players in the league over the last few months of the season. Aston Villa brought him to England from Genk for £7m last summer in a move that even Belgian football journalists were a little sceptical of.
Manager Paul Lambert learned how to harness his talents in the course of the season and has moulded him in to what he is now. Villa’s reward for this? A transfer request.
Immediately linked to him are Chelsea and Spurs. There is a third outcome though, and that’s that he stays at Aston Villa. So where will he be next season?
Chelsea have been linked to every striker this summer. However, they’ve only got into serious discussion with Napoli over Edinson Cavani, but even then, they backed away when the transfer fee started to climb.
They were linked to Falcao, Lewandowski, Suarez, Hulk, Dzeko and all manner of strikers. But, the thing is they’ve got £50m Fernando Torres showing signs of life, Romelu Lukaku who is as good a striking prospect as there is in the world at the moment, Demba Ba who they only signed a few months ago and newly signed Andre Schurrle who is able to play upfront. So why the link to every striker going?
Christian Benteke to Chelsea makes no sense. Put it this way- if Lukaku hadn’t returned from loan, and had instead been purchased, would they be linked? No.
Last season, Lukaku scored 17 Premier League goals in 35 games, many of which came off the bench. Benteke scored 19 in 34 games in which he started nearly all. Not much to split them.
Lukaku though, is 20. Benteke is 22. Lukaku scored more goals in Belgium and arrived to much greater fan fare. This is not to denigrate Benteke by any means, but it’s to say that Chelsea don’t need him. Why would they need Lukaku and Benteke when they possess such similar attributes?
Spurs is by the most logical destination for Benteke if he was to move. They need a new striker and unlike Chelsea, they do not possess a player with Benteke’s skill set.
Defoe is a capable goalscorer, but he’s very streaky. He’s found his level now, and he’s a good but not great Premier League forward.
Adebayor has an abundance of talent but just cannot get it on to the field. He looks disinterested against all but the very biggest teams.
Benteke would give Spurs a physical presence upfront to stop Spurs getting bullied against tougher defences. Benteke’s power and pace would bring Spurs a different option. They could either go direct to him, or his runs would make space for Gareth Bale to roam around in.
Spurs aren’t far away from being able to compete for the Premier League title. They have the most destructive player in the league in Gareth Bale, but he needs helps. They need someone to put chances away. A clinical cutting edge in front of goal is what they missed last year and Benteke has a supreme goals to chance ratio which he showed last season in a Villa team that doesn’t possess the quality that Spurs do.
However, the problem for Spurs is going to be the price. Villa are thought to want £25m. Even for Chelsea, that’s a very risky price to pay for a player with only one season of serious production under his belt. Spurs got torched on Roman Pavlyuchenko under similar circumstances.
It’s not to say Benteke wouldn’t be a huge success, but it’s still a risk. Can Spurs justify breaking their club-record to get Benteke?
If they are serious about keeping Bale long-term, this is the kind of ambition that could impress him but it’s out of their usual comfort zone. They will no doubt be pondering as to whether he can keep up his production rate from last season, when looking at the price. They can’t afford him to start slowly as he did at Villa.
It could mean Benteke stays at Villa by default, but if he does stay there, it’ll be the best thing for him. At Villa he is the absolute key man. Without his goals they would have gone down. As he emerged as a dominant target man, Villa had a run of form that kept them in the Premier League.
What happens if he goes to Chelsea and doesn’t get on the field often enough? Will he still make the Belgium World Cup squad? What happens if he goes to Spurs and struggles initially. Will they be able to afford to let him settle in. If he doesn’t score in his first six or seven games, will they be able to stay patient with as they chase the top four?
Another season at Villa, as their star man, with a 20+ goal season could see him overtake Lukaku in the Belgium pecking order if Lukaku gets stuck on Chelsea’s bench.
Villa have made some impressive signings this summer and could be a dark horse in the cup competitions. Benteke needs to pull his request back and sit tight this season and show he’s a bona fide star. If he does that, he’ll get his big move and Villa will get their big transfer fee.
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