Liverpool are probably going to sign Christian Benteke this summer so fans should prepare to welcome the Belgian international striker after his exploits with Aston Villa over the past three seasons. 42 goals in 88 appearances in the English Premier League for a struggling side has made Benteke a target for England's bigger clubs, including Liverpool.
Much debate has centred on Liverpool's strikers with Fabio Borini, Mario Balotelli, and Rickie Lambert set to leave this summer. Daniel Sturridge is currently injured and expected to miss the start of the season, something that underlines the need for another first-choice striker in the squad. Divock Origi is only 20, while new signing Danny Ings turns 23 next month with only a single promising season of top-flight football with relegated Burnley behind him. Some believe that securing the right big-name striker could define the club's hope's next season, and this fact hasn't been lost on a former Red who scored many goals for the club during his playing days.
"The striker issue is a big thing," Fowler told the Liverpool Echo as he considered the talents of Liverpool's first-choice target to lead the attack in the absence of Daniel Sturridge. "We didn't have anyone who scored 10 Premier League goals last year and I can't remember the last time that happened at Liverpool. It's important we get a proven goalscorer and of the names being bandied about I'd go for Benteke. I think he's excellent. I know there are other top strikers out there and probably more prolific scorers. But in terms of all-round play - strength, speed, physicality, finishing - I think Benteke could be the main man for Liverpool."
This is some high praise indeed, but it may not be enough to convince those who think Benteke is unsuitable for the way Liverpool approach the game under Brendan Rodgers, a manager who looks to have the full support of the club's hierarchy. Robbie Fowler scored many wonderful goals and understands the pressure strikers are under to score regularly for one of Europe's most storied clubs. The club legend went further by addressing common concerns surrounding the Benteke's suitability and style.
"I've watched him a lot and he's not just a targetman," Fowler said in praise of the 24-year-old. "He can hold the ball well and bring others into play but he's also mobile and keeps defenders on their toes. Before he got his injury I was very impressed with him and I was hoping we would sign him then. He had a slow start after getting back fit but under Tim Sherwood his form was superb.
"I think he's ideal for the way Brendan wants to play. It's probably what we lacked at times last season. We had forwards who wanted to drop deep to get involved with the play and we always had that gap up front. With a Benteke type, you have someone who will stay up there and stretch defenders. If you have someone who stretches the defence and makes the pitch bigger there's a lot more space for the likes of Firmino, Coutinho and Henderson to run into.
"When you've got players who want to drop deep all the time, you're easier to mark as a team. When forwards drop into Coutinho's position, it makes it harder for him to get on the ball. Liverpool's game isn't all about getting down the line and whipping crosses in, it's about movement but I think Benteke has got that. I can't stress enough how important it is that we get a forward like that - someone to make the pitch big. It's vital for us because it brings others into the game."
Fowler thinks that Benteke would be "probably the perfect player" for Liverpool with a fee that is of little concern to the man with 183 goals in 369 games at the club simply because "he's good enough" to provide what Merseyside's finest needs. Being a successful former player doesn't automatically mean that every word is conclusive and beyond criticism, but it's interesting to find out what notable figures associated with the club think of potential transfer moves. Whatever Liverpool decide to do in terms of augmenting and strengthening the attack, it may be wise to act as soon as possible to give the new player as much time as possible to gel with his new teammates.
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