Having turned down a big money move to the Chinese Super League in January, Christian Benteke made clear he values playing major European football over taking an easy payday. With reports that a lack of playing time means he may not be part of Belgium’s plans for the Euros this summer, though, it’s getting difficult to imagine him still at Anfield come next season.
Enter West Ham, who according to multiple reports over the past 24 hours have settled on Benteke as their top attacking target for the coming summer, potentially offering the big Belgian an escape route from his Anfield purgatory and the promise of playing time for a top-half Premier League side. The only stickling point would appear to be wages, as his £120k per week for the moment appears a deal-breaker.
Thanks to the television windfall, West Ham could afford to offer as much as £25M for Benteke—a loss for Liverpool, but a fee far more in line with Benteke’s real value to a side that would play to his strengths than £32.5M ever was. Liverpool only ever paid that much because former manager Brendan Rodgers demanded he get Benteke, and the club will always have known if things didn’t work they’d take a loss.
Rodgers, as reported by multiple journalists with ties to the club, pushed through the signing of Benteke, forcing the transfer committee to agree to pay his buyout if necessary or he wouldn’t sign off on the club’s purchase of Roberto Firmino, who has gone on to be Liverpool’s player of the season. By most accounts, the transfer committee believed Benteke was worth, at most, £10M less than his buyout clause.
If they can recoup that amount from West Ham, it would likely be considered a success within the club. West Ham, though, appear to be leery of Benteke’s wages—they’re about £40k per week higher than the Hammers would like to pay, which adds up to more than £2M per season. Over a five-year deal, that’s more than £10M. New television money or not, that’s an awfully long way from insignificant.
Unless Benteke is willing to take a pay cut—which appears unlikely—it would mean Liverpool would have to subsidise Benteke’s wages. Still, for a player who has fallen to fourth on the depth chart, it might be worth it. For West Ham, meanwhile, with Andy Carroll already on the squad, if they can pull it off it would mean having Liverpool’s two most expensive ever signings on their books next season.