Liverpool don’t want Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini. Liverpool do want Christian Benteke. According to the Independent, that means it’s time for them to try to pull off something that never seems to actually happen outside the dreams of the sports pages: a genuine cash plus players swap between Premier League clubs. It’s almost certain not to happen, but it makes a certain kind of sense.
It’s no secret that despite doubts about the player’s fit, Liverpool have made Aston Villa’s 24-year-old striker their top transfer target. A strong, physically gifted, Premier League proven goal scorer, he’s the man the Reds have decided is needed to serve as the club’s top striker when Daniel Sturridge isn’t fit. And as the club can no longer count on Sturridge being fit, it means Benteke is really first choice to become Liverpool’s new Plan A.
There’s no arguing Benteke’s ability to score, but the player’s off the ball movement and closing down of opponents on the press aren’t strong points. Neither is close control or dribbling. Benteke’s no stationary lump, and he’s shown flashes of promise in a more fluid set-up for Belgium, but there are worries about his ability to lead the line for a side that will need to break down packed defences when he will be more tightly marked.
There are also injury concerns given he’s a large player who was sidelined for six months in 2014 with a ruptured achilles and who struggled in 2013 with knee and groin problems. All of which makes for a rather difficult target to judge. He’s clearly a talented striker, and the club may have seen things that lead them to believe he can develop the weak points of his game in short order. But there are legitimate question marks.
Perhaps the biggest is Aston Villa’s £32.5M valuation, which is where Borini and Lambert come in. So far, Liverpool have signalled an unwillingness to push past £25M for Benteke, which is high but given Wilfried Bony’s £25M transfer to Manchester City in January probably the going rate for a player of Benteke’s talents. The Independent, though, suggest the duo could be offered at a high valuation to bridge the gap.
If such a move comes off it will be a major shock given how rarely these sorts of player swaps actually happen. Still, with Villa in need of a new striker or two if Benteke leaves and with their attempts to sign Lambert in January still fresh in the memory, it’s probably not the craziest transfer rumour ever put forward.
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