Christian Benteke’s £32.5M signing was pushed through by Brendan Rodgers last summer, and though the striker always seemed a questionable fit for Liverpool, as long as the man who championed his purchase was in charge he seemed likely to be given every opportunity to excell.
Rodgers wasn’t in charge for very long. Under new manager Jürgen Klopp, Benteke quickly fell down the depth chart, ending up well behind Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi when they were fit and slotted behind multi-purpose attacker Roberto Firmino when they weren’t. When Benteke did get chances, he failed to perform.
"At 25 years old, I’m neither old nor young, but it’s important to play," Benteke told the press gathered at Belgium’s training session today when asked about his Liverpool future. "I still have a contract at Liverpool and I’d like to stay if I remain in the coaches plans, but if that’s not the case it will become difficult to stay."
With the return of Danny Ings from a torn ACL adding another striker to the mix—one who, like Sturridge and Origi and even Firmino, seems likely to quickly end up ahead of Benteke on the depth chart—it’s hard to see how Benteke fits in next season. Especially if the Belgian international wants to see significant minutes.
The problem, though, is what to do with him then. Because it’s not just his £32.5M cost to Liverpool last summer making him a difficult asset to shift. It’s also the fact that with wages between £120 and £140k per week, he is Liverpool’s highest paid player. That could make moving him nearly impossible.
The hope will be that Benteke’s situation is different than past players on high wages Liverpool have struggled to shift. In the past, Liverpool have struggled to move older players on high wages because too often they were happy to sit on the bench while earning a big pay packet. Benteke can’t do that.
At least not if he wants to play for Belgium, where he has fallen to third on the striker depth chart behind Everton’s Romelu Lukaku and Liverpool teammate Origi after a season mostly spent on the bench at the club level. To change that, he needs to play. And to play, he’ll need to accept a move with lower wages.
"I’ll think about it after the Euros," he added when pressed on the matter. "I was prepared for what I went through. I knew if I had mixed performances I would be criticised, and when [Klopp] arrived I saw that I would not be in his plans. That was frustrating, but we had several discussions and I respect his decisions."