Not many of us had heard of the raw, lanky centre forward signed by Paul Lambert on deadline day in 2012, who was presumably bought to help get record signing Darren Bent firing on all cylinders.
A little under three years later, the same tall Belgian lad is set to leave Villa Park for a whopping £32.5 million to join Liverpool.
Christian Benteke will always have a special place in the hearts of Villa fans as it is thanks to his most impressive goal return that we have managed to stay in the Premier League for the last three seasons. I just hope Liverpool supporters appreciate him as much as we have.
At twenty-four, Benteke is a player with enormous potential and he is certainly not the one-dimensional target man some believe he is. His close control and link up play are exceptional at times and, despite the occasional battle against the offside flag, he was able to link play well when finally given the support from midfield that was so desperately lacking under Lambert’s management. More importantly, he also has the ability to find the net regularly, with many of his goals proving quite spectacular and coming at important times too. Who could forget the swivel and thunderous shot at the Hawthorns, the chest control and overhead kick at home to Norwich or the left footed curler that left De Gea helpless as he watched the ball fly into his top corner? Benteke’s ice cool penalty past Ben Foster in stoppage time was both classy and crucial, as was the late free kick that completed his hat-trick at home to Queens Park Rangers – another game in which the opposition’s defence found him unplayable.
Tim Sherwood deserves a huge amount of credit for the way in which he has dealt with the issue of Benteke’s departure. Having managed to get him firing to help guide us to safety, Sherwood pulled off a masterstroke by publicly announcing Benteke’s release clause early in the summer in order to eliminate any drama and to stop a saga developing. By doing this, Benteke had no way of forcing a transfer as the club officials had to let him speak to any club that activated his release clause. Sherwood was also able to avoid being persuaded to accept anything less than the £32.5 million the club feels Benteke is worth and the manager will end up with a substantial amount of cash to spend on the striker’s replacement. £32.5 million is a fair price for a top European striker and as long as the money is invested properly the Villa squad will be stronger across the board.
Christian Benteke will go down as one of the best players to don an Aston Villa shirt in the Premier League era. Although it will be sad to see him go, it would be nice to see him maximise his potential and become one of the most feared strikers in Europe. I am sure that Christian Benteke will be a success at Liverpool and I think the majority of our supporters wish him well, as nobody can deny that he has earned his move. He has been dignified and respectful to the club and its supporters in the way he has handled his impending departure (take note, Fabian Delph) and I imagine he will get a good reception on his return to Villa Park.
Goodbye, Christian, and thank you.