After a tricky 2014/15 campaign, Brendan Rodgers has once again looked to rebuild his Liverpool squad, already making six signings in this summer’s burgeoning transfer market. Now, with the £49 million sale of their contract rebelling starlet Raheem Sterling to Manchester City imminent, Liverpool are looking for a marquee name to fill the void left by Sterling, and a name they have been linked with all summer is that of Christian Benteke.
Benteke is an excellent striker; he has scored 49 goals in 100 appearances for an Aston Villa side that was often so dull, uninspiring and devoid of any creativity under Paul Lambert that they were perennially shunted to the darkest depths of the Match of the Day running order. Not only is his scoring record good, but he is also terrifying to play against. His physical presence is so huge that it seems at times it would take a whole team of defenders to stop him.
Liverpool need goals after their dismal regression from 101 to 52 over the last season, and have unsurprisingly been linked with Benteke. But, whilst Liverpool could do with another quality striker to support the oft-injured Daniel Sturridge, Benteke is not the man they need, and should the mooted £32.5 million move happen, it could turn into a bit of a nightmare for both parties.
The first piece of evidence that should discourage Liverpool from investing in Benteke is their recent history with forwards who play in a similar style to the big Belgian. Looking back to last summer, Liverpool signed Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert, both of whom are big, powerful, hold-up players who are not too dissimilar from Benteke. Whilst neither of these players are as good as the Aston Villa striker, they both struggled rather spectacularly to fit in with Brendan Rodgers propensity to keep the ball on the floor. Players like Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana are more accustomed to intricate interchanges rather than lumping the ball up to the big man.
Even before Rodgers came in, big strikers didn’t have the best of times at Anfield. Andy Carroll is probably the closest possible comparison to Benteke in terms of style, as well as transfer fee, and he didn’t settle well on Merseyside at all. Signing Benteke at a time where they have just lost Sterling for almost £50 million would carry shades of the Torres/Carroll exchange of January 2011. It is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Liverpool haven’t had a big striker that has proved successful since the days of the partnership between Michael Owen and Emile Heskey in the early 200os. Their style just doesn’t lend itself to players like Benteke, and hasn’t for a number of years.
Furthermore, whilst Benteke has proved himself to be an excellent striker on his day, question marks can still be raised over his consistency. It is quite normal for Benteke to follow a run where he is scoring more than a goal a game with a barren spell that can last for a significant portion of the season. In order to get back to fighting for the Champions League places again, Liverpool need a player who is going to deliver consistent performance, and not a player who blows as hot and cold as Christian Benteke.
With all of this in mind, Benteke would have to strongly consider whether Liverpool is the right move for him. At Aston Villa, he is the undisputed talisman, their most influential player, a big fish in the Premier League’s bottom half pond. Due to the difference in style at Liverpool, it is likely he would struggle to establish himself as the number one striker, especially with Daniel Sturridge close to a return from injury, which could leave Benteke sat on the bench, failing to make the most of his big-money move.
At 24, Benteke probably does need to be stepping up to a bigger club than Villa, but he also needs game time to mature into the fantastic striker he has the potential to become. There are clubs of similar or even greater stature than Liverpool who Benteke would fit perfectly, and he should hold out for a more direct side to come calling, rather than go to Anfield and risk stalling a career that is at a very fragile stage.
So Benteke isn’t the right player for Liverpool, and Liverpool isn’t the right place for Benteke. Liverpool need goals, and they have the money to get a player of Benteke’s quality following the sale of Sterling, but should go for a slighter, quicker and more skilful footballer. Benteke is in a stage of his career where he should be looking to play European football, but should wait for a club who cross the ball and play it up to the big man; who naturally play more to his strengths. Were this transfer to go through, it would mean each party getting what they want, rather than what they need. Sometimes, certain players don’t fit in at certain clubs. Liverpool and Benteke are a perfect example. It may seem convenient, but both would be better off without the other.[separator type=”thin”]
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