To buy or not to buy? That’s the conundrum that will face Birmingham boss Alex McLeish this summer.
One of McLeish’s hardest decisions will be whether to make Christian Benítez’s loan deal from Mexican side Santos Laguna permanent.
There was a lot of controversy over the Ecuador international’s transfer. Birmingham firstly announced that they had signed Benítez for a club record transfer fee, thought to be around £6million rising to £9million. However, during the medical, unforeseen knee problems were found and then co-owner David Sullivan re-negotiated the deal on a ‘protected purchase’ basis. The Blues paid £1.2million to loan Benítez for the year and have the option of making the deal permanent which could end up costing around £8million.
When you look at Benítez’s goal record you may think Big Eck’s decision is an easy one. Just three goals in 29 appearances is a very poor return for any striker, let alone one which could cost £8million. But McLeish himself has pointed out that ‘Chucho’ offers a lot of other qualities on the pitch.
“He hasn’t scored many goals, but his six or seven assists have been really valuable in getting us into the position we are in at the moment.” said McLeish.
A fine example of Benítez’s contribution was the league game against Portsmouth at Fratton Park. Just a few days earlier, the Blues had looked surprisingly flat and got knocked out of the FA Cup by the financially troubled outfit. But with Benítez back in the side Birmingham looked a more lethal attacking threat and Chucho set up both of Cameron Jerome’s goals in the 2-1 win.
One of those assists included a delightful back heel , something which isn’t uncommon from the former El Nacional striker. As you would expect from a South American, he has lots of flair and skill but definitely needs to improve his composure in front of goal if he wants to become a permanent fixture in the Premier League.
At 5’6’’, Benítez is by no means the tallest, which makes the fact that two of his three goals for Birmingham have been headers, very puzzling indeed. He has also been criticised by his own manager for not staying on his feet enough. He was booked at Pompey for diving and McLeish was quick to publicly bemoan Benítez for his actions.
McLeish is probably still not 100% sure on what he will do regarding the Ecuadorian but Benítez could definitely help make Big Eck’s decision easier with good performances in Birmingham’s last eight league games.