We’ve seen it before; in fact English audiences love to get carried away with the next big thing.
Christian Benteke arrived in the Premier League in fairly typical circumstances; not many had heard of him and Aston Villa were perhaps taking a gamble on a youngster who was unproven in any of the top leagues in Europe. But you’ve really got to be impressed with the way Benteke has adapted quickly to English football: a real powerhouse of a forward who’s able to lead the line at Villa Park with authority.
And then came all the fireworks and the talk of a move away. A handful of bigger teams in the league were said to be interested, and the player appeared to tick the boxes of what was needed at each club. Well what exactly is that? An unknown who six months ago had a number of question marks hanging over him? And let’s be honest, is he even that good? Now, I’m not questioning his talent or commitment at a struggling Villa, but he’s not going to fire anyone into the Champions League – at least certainly not now.
I like the player, I think he’s exactly the sort of player the Premier League needs. He’s exciting to watch, he scores fantastic goals and he’s a massive lift to most at his current club. But it’s far too early to get carried away. I mean it has only been six months, and more than anything the player is further proof of how easily audiences get carried away.
I don’t think the phrase should be, “Aston Villa would do well to keep him at the end of the season,” because if they stay up the player would do well to remain at the club and keep himself grounded. He may turn into the next Didier Drogba, and I don’t doubt he has the talent to be something close to what the former Chelsea player was. But that’s well into the future and in an environment where he’s ready to make the next step up.
You look at players like Michu and everyone would love to have him in their side. But sometimes you have to ask why he isn’t playing for a bigger club. First of all, Swansea have proven themselves to be a good Premier League side and have done exceptionally well to pick up the bargain signing to wash away all other bargain signings; but we don’t have any proof in Michu’s history of him contributing to this standard at a top level club. He’s never played Champions League football, and despite his age and experience, we really don’t know how well he’d adjust.
Can’t all of that be said about Benteke, who is only 22? You look at a player like Romelu Lukaku and you’d say both he and West Brom (and Chelsea, in fact) have made a positive move for the player’s development in offering him a low-pressure environment to grow in England. Aston Villa, despite being in a relegation scrap, is the perfect club for Benteke to harness his qualities and become a leading figure in the English game.
He’s got the power, technique, awareness, and scoring touch to be a success. But I don’t think anyone would be doing the player any favours by forcing him onto a stage like Liverpool or Arsenal any time soon.
Victor Moses is another name who needed the move to Wigan, and you never know how Wilfried Zaha will pan out at Manchester United. But the difference between those two players is that they aren’t arriving at big clubs with the weight of expectation and the pressure to take their new teams onto the next level. Zaha isn’t replacing a name like Cristiano Ronaldo and Moses was brought in to add depth to an already impressive Chelsea squad.
Just once it would be nice to see those who know what’s best for a player ignore the clamour for something big. Sure, Benteke could make the significant step up in English football, but at the same time he could end up somewhere well away from the top tier of Premier League football and in another league altogether. I’m not saying the player is a flash in the pan, but it’s far too soon to tell if he’s the real deal.
I don’t doubt that Paul Lambert is a good manager for him, and that’s exactly what he needs as of now. A big move in the near future could raise the excitement levels for some, but it’s very easy for it to be equally damaging to the player. Let him learn the English game for longer than a season before any great deal of faith is placed in him.