It seems that every few weeks this year, Liverpool get linked to striker Christian Benteke, Aston Villa’s 14-goal man. And so goes is that this week, yet again, Liverpool have been linked to Christian Benteke. This time it’s the Mirror kicking off a new round of rumours, and while the source would be easy to ignore in isolation, that this rumour that simply will not die makes it a rumour Liverpool fans have to at least give consideration to.
At 6’2" and 180 pounds, Benteke cuts an imposing physical presence much like that of current striker Rickie Lambert. Benteke, though, is better in the air while remaining solid in the build-up, with better than average movement and an eye for goal but lacking the top end speed to play on the counter. An easy shorthand for Liverpool fans might be to call him a player with all the best qualities of recent failed Liverpool striker signings Lambert and Andy Carroll.
Which may not sound especially flattering, but if one were to take all the good points of Andy Carroll and Rickie Lambert—the imposing physical talent and aerial prowess meshed with a surprisingly adept link-up player—one would end up with quite a good number nine leading the line, and that’s exactly what Benteke is. He also has a decent return in front of goal, scoring once every 180 minutes this season and maintaining a 15.5% strike rate.
Neither number is spectacular, but both speak to an entirely capable striker in front of goal. Yet for £32M, fans will be wondering if capable is enough. They might also wonder, as when a player like Andy Carroll was signed for £35M or when Wilfried Bony was linked with a £25M move last summer, why Liverpool seem so intent on spending quite a lot of money on players who don’t seem a natural fit for the way the club tend to want to play under Brendan Rodgers.
Christian Benteke isn’t a lifeless lump of a poacher , but he does like the ball swung in to his head and his best talents seem at odds with both last season’s absurdly uptempo counter game and the Swanselona pressure and possession Rodgers arrived at the club preaching. Which means if Benteke were to arrive as Liverpool’s new Plan A—and, given Daniel Sturridge’s injury record and Benteke’s high fee, he would be—the rest of the side would need to be reshaped to get the best out of him.
This season, Rodgers proved unwilling to do just that to get the best out of the strikers he did have on hand when Sturridge went down—and then stayed down—injured. He refused to do that for Carroll before shipping him off to Sam Allardyce and West Ham. And that all makes it seem slightly ridiculous that Liverpool are now widely considered frontrunners to add another £32M to their spend under FSG on strikers who don’t seem an especially good fit.
Benteke is a good striker, maybe even a very good one, and at 24 years of age his best is ahead of him. Buying him, though, would mean a complete reshaping of the rest of the squad. Or it would mean another season of trying to jam £32M worth of square peg striker into Rodgers’ footballing philosophy. It’s an awkward fit at best, and a complete waste of the bulk of Liverpool’s summer budget at worst, and it would lead to even more doubts about whether the club have a coherent transfer strategy.
There’s little doubt Benteke would have made this season’s Liverpool side better and that he’s a solid number nine. The unreasonably high fee being demanded and his awkward fit for Liverpool, though, would make him a very odd man to make into the club’s top summer target. That he has also been linked to Manchester United and Roma, though, could mean Liverpool will be saved the embarrassment of buying another £30M+ striker who doesn’t fit.
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