For Tottenham Hotspur fans still smarting after the club’s failure to attain Internacional’s Leandro Damiao during the January transfer window, the prospect of window-shopping in the Premier League’s relegation zone might not seem so appealing.
But with the club now seemingly happy to wait until the summer to capture another striker to bolster the ranks, there is one man that could prove to be a very astute bit of business indeed, should Aston Villa’s fortunes fail to turn the corner over the next 13 games.
Christian Benteke may not have 14 caps for the world’s most famous international team under his belt like Damiao does for Brazil. Furthermore, Benteke can’t call upon the likes of Ronaldinho in his list of admirers and he can’t claim to have been tipped for too much in the way of international stardom, either.
But what he does have in common with Damiao, are the striking characteristics that Andre Villas-Boas needs to kick on in this Tottenham side’s evolution. And although he may not be the people’s pick, he could just prove to be the perfect bit of business for Spurs, should the opportunity arise this summer.
Indeed, it seems somewhat macabre to start speculating on the future of a player currently doing everything in his power to keep his team afloat within the top tier of English football. In both Aston Villa and Paul Lambert, Benteke was lucky enough to find a set-up willing to gamble the £7million it took to prise him from Genk back in August.
To preempt their fortunes over the next few months would be naïve; to presume Spurs chairman Daniel Levy could just waltz into Birmingham and walk out with their prized asset would be even more so.
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Yet in Benteke, you can’t but feel that the much-speculated transfer committee in N17 may already be casting a few admiring eyes towards the Zaire-born talent. And if reports emanating around the turn of the year are to be believed, the club have already sent scouts up the M40 to watch Benteke in action.
The striking remit that Villas-Boas will have sent to Daniel Levy isn’t any real great secret amongst supporters. The success of Jermain Defoe may contradict any real urge to bring in a frontman with a more eclectic set of skills, but for all the England man’s goalscoring form this term, you can’t help but feel the manager would prefer a slightly rounder peg for his desired way of playing.
Spurs have been hampered by a lack of an effective presence at holding the ball up this term. In Defoe, they have a player who brings much in the way of goalscoring prowess, yet little in terms of wider contribution.
Emmanuel Adebayor was of course supposed to be the man to bring that to the side, yet although there’s still for him to do that this season, fans have been treated to a shadow of the man who knocked in 17 league goals last term. Further still, as many will tell you within the white half of North London, simply having just the two recognized strikers doesn’t bode particularly well for a club with such lofty ambitions.
In Christian Benteke however, the big Belgian could be just the solution they’ve been looking for – in more ways than one.
From a purely goalscoring perspective, Benteke’s first season in English football should leave few with any doubts about both his current talent and the potential for improvement. The former Standard Liege prodigy has scored a hugely impressive 14 goals in all competitions this season, including 10 in the Premier League.
As well as offering a physical presence in the penalty area and the ability to bring others into play, Benteke’s looked to possess a great all round game up front, looking just as confident as poaching a goal from six yards as he has creating something out of nothing from 20.
Of course, aged only 22, he’s still someway off being the finished article and as Villa fans will testify, for all his fantastic recent form of late, his finishing has had a tendency to be a little erratic at times this term. But at such a young age, Benteke’s already displayed enough to suggest he has the talent to achieve some very special things indeed within this league.
Perhaps most importantly – and especially attractive too, from the chairman’s standpoint – is the potential economic ramifications that a deal to purchase Christian Benteke might entail.
In a perfect world, Spurs would be able to slap up the rumoured £18million plus that Internacional were looking for Damiao’s services, as Villas-Boas must have dearly wished they’d caved into Shakhtar Donetsk’s demands for the now-Anzhi forward, Willian. But Tottenham don’t live in a perfect world and for however well-run the club may be, there’s only so far their finances can stretch.
Should Benteke continue his scoring run, he’s hardly going to cost the club peanuts; that’s if Villa can even be persuaded to sell. But pending a drop down to the Championship or not, should Randy Lerner be tempted to part with the nine-times capped Belgian international, the transfer fee isn’t likely to be of Damiao proportions.
He may not attain the ‘marquee transfer’ status of a Leandro Damiao, but at 18 months younger, with a skillset not too dissimilar to the Brazilian’s – not to mention the fact he’s proven to prosper within this league – Tottenham could do a hell of a lot worse than plump for Christian Benteke this summer.