Christian Benteke: Where will you end up? #avfc #lfc #thfc #cfc #mufc

As the close season transfer merry-go-round truly kicks into full spin, Christian Benteke was always going to be at the centre of rumours and gossip.  It makes for uncertain times at Aston Villa – as a club – and as fans watching matters pan out from behind the sofa.

If Benteke does leave Villa?  Where will he go?  Why will he go?  And anyway; what’s the harm in staying at Aston Villa?

Liverpool

Liverpool have been strongly linked to Benteke since he ran them ragged at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final.  The Belgian has been touted as the ideal player for the Scousers who desperately need someone with the presence and threat that he carries.

However, this could be said of many teams; Benteke is the type of player that doesn’t come around that often & for a change he’s a Villa player.  Whilst the latter may be true for the near future at least – is Liverpool the best next step?  Seriously?

Yes, he’s not the complete footballer & certainly needs an arm around his shoulder from time to time.  Additionally, without the right support and creativity around him on the pitch, he can become very isolated.  

Look no further than a long stretch of last season which was spent watching Benteke trying to craft many of his own chances for himself in a very poor Villa side.  It marks the only chapter in the striker’s otherwise consistent Villa career where he looked to have completely lost his way.

This is why the Liverpool transfer seems the least logical move for an ambitious and supremely talented footballer.  He has spent the best part of three years carrying Villa – why take a sideways move into carrying a side that looks as far away from success as most?  

This is a club that Raheem Sterling cannot wait to leave & which Steven Gerrard would rather play franchise football in America than endure another season.

Whilst Villa have certainly been scratching around at the wrong end of the table for too long – Liverpool do not carry an aura, a feeling of progress or look to be heading towards the upper echelons of the game in a hurry.  In Benteke’s mind, is this a truly significant step up?

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If Liverpool is the preferred destination, then it will be one that is desperate for a marquee signing to replace Sterling/Gerrard.  A year on they are still using the loss of Suarez as an excuse for everything.

Who will craft the opportunities for Benteke?  Who will progress Liverpool alongside him?  Why join a side with no Champions League football, which he so craves?  It just doesn’t add up.

Liverpool have history, a big name and strong brand.  However, these are also the attributes of other “big” things; McDonalds have made an absolute mint selling burgers for decades – but they aren’t going to be winning Michelin stars anytime soon.

Liverpool are a waning star that Benteke would do well to avoid.

Tottenham Hotspur

There have been consistent rumours that Spurs would look to fashion a move for Benteke, utilising the Sherwood connection and our need to bulk out playing staff with some half decent talent warming their bench & academy.

This is a clever sell from Spurs, certainly appealing to some degree in that Villa may stand to benefit from cash and potentially 2/3 players.  Additionally, the carrot has been dangled with a couple of promising youth players with the option of first refusal no doubt thrown in to sweeten the deal.

You have to give it to Levy, he’s a shrewd businessman.

However, the drawbacks are obvious.  Villa have consistently been on the raw end of cash plus player deals.  For example; The frustrating lack of consistency from Stephen Ireland, a player with bags of talent but no desire to use it, will live long in the memory.  The money we received from Man City for Milner, suddenly looked very bad business indeed (£18 million + Ireland – valued at £8 million! = £26 million deal!!).  The prosecution rests.

Spurs have plenty of players who look great from afar – but there is a reason why they are willing to part with them – and their fans aren’t that bothered to see the back of them.

Additionally there is the obvious deal killer that Tottenham simply cannot match the ambitions that Benteke holds.  His ability has the potential take him far higher than Villa and Tottenham.  Spurs for many years, make the right noises, sign flurries of players but never look like kicking on into the elite of English football.

Benteke wants the bright lights, massive stadiums and major honours – he will not achieve anything like this at Spurs.

Chelsea

Chelsea have been the quietest of the potential bidders of late.  Mourinho is a diligent operator and can be quite unpredictable in the transfer market.  Thus, the warning lights should be flashing if they aren’t already.

Chelsea hold a number of telling advantages.  A super rich, “money no object” owner who can reliably back his manager to make the right choice.  Mourinho is a winning machine – his work at Chelsea is impressive, honours with Porto career defining but he won a Champions League with Inter having not been permitted a prayer.

They were the Champions of England last season at a canter and have a platform with which to push on and win the Champions League next season.

The CV for club and manager is, it is fair to say, sound.

Benteke is also the most Drogba like player I can think of playing the Premier League right now.  The times Didier Drogba bossed games, physically dominated and scored at will draws comparison.  Benteke, whilst not quite as predatory as Drogba, for me at least is more thoughtful, creative and doesn’t use the dark arts to his benefit.

There are of course factors to limit the likelihood of a deal happening.  

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Chelsea have an array of striking options.  Costa, Remy and the no doubt soon to be rehabilitated Falcao.  This is an impressive a set of attacking options, with varying attributes as you are likely the see.  However, it there is one thing that may be lacking?  A presence and physique such as Benteke’s with proven goalscoring against the best teams he’s faced.

Chelsea have been subtle with their business so far and are the club to be most feared to make a move for Benteke.  

Manchester United

United are another team to be feared as they have both the resources and appeal to draw Benteke from Villa Park.

After a season to forget under Moyes, they are now very much beginning to look like a robotic winning machine under Van Gaal.

Whilst the style of play came in for criticism at times, ultimately they finished fourth & you can be reasonably assured that they will cement this position or improve upon it next year.  Improvement will only be achieved through continued overhaul of a squad that looked lacking in depth and quality when called upon.

From Benteke’s point of view United likely carry similar appeal to that of Chelsea.  A winning pedigree, a realistic aim for major honours and Champions League football this side of a European Championships.

The one difference may be that in signing for United Benteke would join with the expectation that he would be the marquee goalscorer.  This expectation may prove a burden for a man who appears quiet and humble.  It’s one thing being the hope of a sleeping Midlands giant & quite another to be scrutinised by the prawn sandwich brigade.  

Benteke harbours ambitions of great things, but would he be able to take on the responsibility of scoring 20+ goals for United?  Just ask Falcao…or Van Persie…

AS Roma

Roma reported their interest in the last January transfer window and renewed that interest with enquiries this close season.

The Italian giants are an outside bet, primarily on financial grounds – the £32.5 million release clause has prompted them to sit quietly, perhaps watching how things pan out.  This may be a prudent tactic as deadline day approaches & a last minute, tempting offer, could be submitted in the absence of competition.  Indeed, this may be another possible cash plus player scenario.

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Benteke would represent an ideal signing for the Serie A runners up.  Powerful, dominating of defenders but clean in his play, the Belgian would cause absolute havoc amongst Italian defences.  Further, he would give Roma an added edge when approaching their European fixtures in the coming season.

Would Roma appeal to Benteke?  The answer could only be a speculative “maybe”.  Benteke has been non-committal on a specific future club – but in terms of what type of team he wishes to play for, Premier League aside, Roma tick all of the boxes.

…what the future holds…Aston Villa?

There is no doubt that there will be twists, turns and agonising finality to the Benteke saga.  There always is when it involves The Villa.  Just when you feel assured that something will turn out one way, you can bet your life that it will swing another.

This is, after all, part of why we love football.  Right?

With that said, there is a sneaky optimism stirring amongst myself and other fans that Villa – Aston Villa – might, by some miracle be able to hold on to Benteke.  If we can, it would be the signing of the summer.

Is it possible?  Yes.  Yes, because we do have a year of Benteke’s contract to play with before we are into last chance saloon.  I also hold the view that Villa cannot be worse than the last three seasons Benteke has endured at Villa – and – he could have a free run in an improving team ahead of the European Championships.  

Hell, if we are worse….who could blame him for handing in his notice…

Might there be better places to ply his trade in the next 12 months?  Of course, but this doesn’t come without it’s issues.  

Sign for Chelsea, you tick career objectives, but you may only play a bit part & compromise your international aspirations.  Sign for Liverpool, you might play every week but struggle in a team you are expected to win the league for on your own.  Sign for Spurs, do well and expect to be sold by the chairman at the first sniff of a profit – all without winning anything.

So it’s clear.  Sign for Villa; one more year won’t hurt.  Right?

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