Liverpool will make Christian Benteke their seventh signing of the summer having agreed to pay the giant forward’s £32.5m release clause to take him from Aston Villa.
The prospect of seeing the big Belgian in red might have divided opinion amongst Liverpool supporters, but Mark Jones sees the move as a good one, and here’s why:
He’s Much More Than Just A Target Man
Much of the debate around signing Benteke has centred on the apparent belief that he isn’t suited to the Reds’ game, but that places an unfair focus on his size and furthers the mistaken belief that he is nothing more than the Belgian Andy Carroll or a younger Rickie Lambert.
But the 24-year-old—who might end up taking the No. 9 shirt that has adorned the backs of Carroll and Lambert—is much more than that, as he’s proven over three seasons at Villa where he averages a goal every other game.
He’s mobile, has the pace to get beyond the last defender and is often lethal when getting on the end of counter-attacks, and if they aren’t attractive qualities to have in your team then what are?
He Scored Freely In A Struggling Villa Side
The Achilles injury which saw Benteke ruled out of the 2014 World Cup was still very clearly troubling him for the beginning of the 2014/15 season, as was playing in Paul Lambert’s dreary Villa side which was so rigid and uncreative.
By the time Tim Sherwood arrived though, Benteke was given the freedom he craved in a team which was built around him, and he rediscovered his freescoring form to plunder 13 goals from March onwards as Villa stayed up and reached the FA Cup final.
Forty-nine goals in 100 Villa appearances all-told is an impressive tally too, and if Liverpool can get him fit and firing then that fee might end up looking like good business.
It’ll Stop Him Scoring Against Them
Since arriving at Villa in the summer of 2012, Benteke has scored five goals in seven appearances against Liverpool – including two in a 3-1 win at Anfield in December 2012 and a crucial strike in last season’s FA Cup semi-final.
Of course you wouldn’t just sign him straight off the back of that, but with the old and modified saying of ‘if you can’t beat him, sign him’ coming to mind, the addition of Benteke will remove a nightmare that Brendan Rodgers’ team have faced and perhaps allow them to learn from just how they failed to stop him.
He Seems An Ideal Partner For Daniel Sturridge
Remember Daniel Sturridge? Even with Benteke on board the England international would still have a strong claim to be Liverpool’s best forward, and with a return from hip surgery slated for September, there’s a real chance that Sturridge won’t be Liverpool’s forgotten man for much longer.
And Benteke’s physicality and athleticism would seem to suggest that he could partner Sturridge when he does return, with the pair able to link up well and – whilst not quite at a Sturridge-Suarez level – also possessing a level of mobility which would trouble even the best defences.
The Fee Isn’t ‘That’ Crazy
He’s almost twice the size of him, but in transfer fee terms Benteke is about two-thirds of a Raheem Sterling.
In that context – plus with his wages likely to be less than the now Manchester City man was demanding – then the move for Benteke makes a little more sense, with the 24-year-old seemingly at a perfect age from which to kick on and develop his game.
If anything, Liverpool’s decision to raise the average age of their side this summer will serve them in better stead in the short-term, with an immediate return to the elite the primary goal ahead of a season which looks as though it’ll make or break Rodgers.
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