A year ago, Liverpool spent £32.5M to trigger Christian Benteke’s Aston Villa release clause. At the time, many fans thought it was outrageous. And it probably was, at least at the time and given Benteke always looked a poor fit for Liverpool, no matter that he was then-manager Brendan Rodgers’ chosen striker.
A year later, and with the Premier League undergoing yet another round of transfer inflation on the back of yet another improved television deal, and the fee doesn’t look quite so outrageous. At least not for a club Benteke is a better fit for. At least that’s what Crystal Palace’s chairman is trying to convince himself.
“I thought it was madness,” said chairman Steve Parish when asked what his first thoughts were when he went into negotiations and learned Liverpool were trying to recoup the entire fee they’d paid for the Belgian striker last summer. Palace’s owners, though, signalled early on that they were willing to pay up.
“The have more money than me!” Parish joked before offering more serious answer. “They looked seriously at buying Aston Villa before, and so he was a player that was familiar to them and they wanted to do it. You do wrap your head around it, but looking at it now, I don’t think it was outrageous.”
Benteke may have struggled to get off the bench for Liverpool last season, but for a club like Crystal Palace he looks a proven quantity—exactly the kind of player who should ensure their Premier League survival this year, and a player whose absence likely doomed Aston Villa to relegation last season.
In that light, and in light of the way fees at times seemed to be going up by the week, the £27M up plus a £5M in potential additional add-ons doesn’t look so bad. A year ago, maybe even at the start of the summer, and it’s another matter entirely. Now, it’s just a bottom-half club doing what it takes to survive.