As Christian Benteke sat on the bench at Wembley and watched Divock Origi thrown on ahead of him as Liverpool chased a vital goal to get back into the League Cup Final against Manchester City, he surely must have been thinking about where it’s all gone wrong for him this season. Signed for £32.5m – making him the second most expensive player in the Reds’ history – after a summer of the Merseysiders chasing him and Aston Villa holding firm, it all looked encouraging for the Belgian.
Hailed as the man to give Brendan Rodgers’ side a new option and provide the physicality they’ve often missed, Benteke indeed started well with a vital goal in a narrow home win over Bournemouth and a spectacular scissor kick at Old Trafford against Manchester United. However, things have slowly gone downhill for the marksman, and the managerial change that saw Jurgen Klopp come in has coincided with his drift towards being the fourth in line to lead the German’s attack.
A parting of the ways this summer appears to make sense for both the player and the club… and here are FIVE reasons why.
Although Klopp has once again reiterated his stance that Benteke features in his plans going forward, it’s hard to see just how he fits in. Of course, we cannot forget that the Belgian is a top quality striker with a record of roughly one goal every two games in England with Aston Villa, but his movement and natural tendency to drop deep go against the type of football played at Anfield when Klopp’s side are at their best.
Looking back at the best performances of the season – Manchester City away – Benteke was left on the bench, while other encouraging displays, such as the 6-1 win at Southampton in the League Cup and the 5-4 victory at Norwich, were pulled off without the 25-year-old.
Daniel Sturridge’s threat in behind and link-up play put him ahead of Benteke, Firmino’s ‘hard to track’ runs in a ‘false nine’ position are undoubtedly more dangerous and Divock Origi’s energy and ability to press from the front also see him fit more effectively. Add to this the return of the industrious Danny Ings and potential summer signings, and things look bleak for the £32.5m man.
Benteke hasn’t become a poor player in the space of six months, and rival sides will remember that. In a set-up tailored to his muscular physique and hold-up play, as was the case at Aston Villa, the ex-Genk man has proven himself to be mightily effective, and there are more than a few sides that will play to these strengths.
Interestingly, there were links between Benteke and Chelsea prior to the whole Antonio Conte taking over saga, and it must be said that a switch to the west of London would make sense. Should their much-linked Italian tactician step into the dugout, he will likely opt for a two-man attack in a 3-5-2 set-up, and with support the bustling centre-forward could come good should interest remain. A move to Spain where the effect of his physicality may be amplified might also appeal, while there is the prospect of a massive payday in China to consider…
Back pages in newspapers and websites have been awash with claims that Liverpool are set to undergo an overhaul this summer, and these rumours have been further bulked out by the club’s £60m profit in the last year. Add to this claims that Klopp was promised an ‘ambitious’ squad for 2016/17 and it all rolls into the narrative that signings, and plenty of them, will be made during the next window.
Although a new goalkeeper, a central defender or two and a couple of wide attackers are likely to be on the agenda, it’s hard to see Klopp not addressing the lack of goals in his side and the prospect of Sturridge missing more time through injury. But to do that he’ll surely have to clear some room, and Benteke’s status looks the most shaky.
In this golden generation for Belgian football, no player can afford to stand still. Benteke is one of a number of decent centre-forwards available to head coach, Marc Wilmots, and with Romelu Lukaku having netted 17 goals in league action this term, Divock Origi available and the likes of Michy Batshuayi and Laurent Depoitre having impressed, he could find himself out of the mix for EURO 2016.
In truth it’s unlikely that the Liverpool man will not be taken to France, but without game time he can hardly expect to be in the starting XI, and a major tournament warming the bench may make the prospect of a fresh start away from Anfield all the more appealing.
Right now, a figure of around £20m for Benteke would have to be considered a bargain. Okay, he’s had a rough spell at Liverpool, but with a proven record in the Premier League and his best years ahead of him, such a sum – which the Reds would surely accept – makes business sense for potentially interested teams, especially with TV revenue in the English game swelling.