Last summer Aston Villa bought Christian Benteke for £7m from Genk, a move that even Belgian football pundits thought fraught with risk. Now, they have one of the most desirable players in the Premier League, who is being linked with Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool. They have been attracted by his prototypical physique, speed, power, goals, heading ability and the fact that he improved so quickly last season. So if Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool are the domestic suitors, where would be best for him to go to? Or would he better off staying at Villa?
Spurs are being linked most strongly with Benteke of the three so are a logical place to start. There is no doubt, and precious little secrecy about Spurs’ summer priority and that is to sign an upgrade on their current strikers. They have been linked with Leandro Damiao, Jackson Martinez, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Benteke most prominently. There is an obvious theme to all of these; physical presence combined with ruthless finishing. In other words, they want a hybrid of what they currently have. They want the power and pace of Adebayor with the finishing of Jermain Defoe.
What all of these options have in their favour is consistency, but what makes Benteke such an intriguing option is that he has done it consistently in the Premier League. He has already shown that he can score goals against the opposition Spurs will have to overcome to get back in to the top four. Now, despite his improvements, he is still very raw. There is real doubt as to whether he is quite ready to lead a team to the top four and the idea of Spurs signing him depends of Gareth Bale’s future. If Spurs sell Bale they can’t sign Benteke to be their main man. He is not ready to be that figurehead at the top of the league. If they keep Bale, then Benteke would be a great option. Spurs are Bale’s team, so if he stays Benteke can play and learn and improve without the pressure of carrying them on his back. He would have a dream supply line to help him find his feet.
Arsenal have also been linked to Benteke but it is unclear whether the Emirates would be the best landing spot for him. Arsenal play a different style of football to Spurs, where the striker is more involved in the build-up play. At Spurs he would be allowed to roam the penalty box as he was at Villa. At Arsenal he would need to be more sophisticated and versatile, and at this stage he is not ready to be that. Spurs bombard the box with crosses, Arsenal do not. They have got a big penalty box man in Olivier Giroud, supposedly to offer a different dimension but most of Arsenal’s goals still came with passing or quick counter attacking which is more reliant on the attacking midfielders. Benteke has more potential than Giroud, but at this stage is at best a minor upgrade. Arsenal seem to readying bids for players like Stevan Jovetic, who carry an expectation of a title challenge. They would be better off spending big money on a world-class striker for the time being.
Liverpool have supposedly joined the race on the basis that Luis Suarez could be leaving. But, since the arrival of Daniel Sturridge, Suarez has played either in behind or out left, his old Ajax position. Sturridge is the striker that Brendan Rdogers believes in. He wants three tricky attackers in behind a quick goal-scoring striker. He seems to be prioritising adding a third option to Philippe Coutinho and Iago Aspas rather than striker. There’s a possibility that Sturridge could be moved wide right but that’s not why he was bought. Benteke’s role at Anfield is undefined.
Villa will of course, not let him go lightly, if at all. The problem for any club trying to buy him will be finding a fee that Villa find acceptable. He’s probably worth £15m or so, given his raw talent and goal output, but he is worth more than that to Villa. If they sell him, who are they replacing him with? He was singlehandedly responsible for them staying up last season so selling him would be a huge risk. The best solution for Villa would be to keep him for this season, and if he’s scored another 20+ goals he will be worth £20m, and more. There is no reason for them to sell him this summer unless they get a mind blowing offer. For Benteke, another season as guaranteed starter could give him the edge over Romelu Lukaku in the race to start for Belgium at the 2014 World Cup.