How good is Christian Benteke? With a goal on his debut as a substitute, it’s so far, so good, for Villa fans, but back home in Belgium the jury is still out. I know there’s some Villans out there who like to see the negative in anything – even after a 2-0 win against Swansea (‘It’s only Swansea’) – so this is for them. To the rational Villa supporter, it also makes interesting reading and maybe cause to take the excitement of Benteke’s arrival with a pinch of salt?
Upfront, I’ll say it’s a little on the harsh side, but I’ll address that later.
The below analysis is from the well-written and knowledgable English-language website that specialises on Belgium football called The Belgium Waffle , from an article on Belgium exports to the EPL in the last transfer window. A website worth keeping tabs on with the recent renaissance in Belgium football, although you may not agree with the following view of Benteke!
Christian Benteke to Aston Villa – £7m (from The Belgium Waffle)
Let’s start off with the transfer that shocked me the most on Deadline Day™. After Aston Villa’s fairly poor start to the season, Paul Lambert was looking to if at all possible, add some much-needed firepower to his newly inherited side. Much has been made of Randy Lerner’s tightening of the purse-strings but this move doesn’t half strike of desperation. I understand that Lambert, especially at Norwich, likes to nurture young players, but does he have time to do that at Villa, when they could be set from a relegation dogfight for another year?
To clarify, I’m a huge fan of Christian Benteke’s even if I don’t think he deserves a Premier League move yet. The Congolese-born Belgian has flitted between Standard and Genk (with quick stops in Kortrijk and Mechelen too) in his fledging career and the reason for that is his petulant and abrasive attitude. He’s brash and has courted controversy many times (search Benteke and carjacking on Google and you’ll see why). But last season, he looked to have turned a corner with a string of impressive performances at Genk, most of which were in the Playoff phase.
The 21-year old’s consistency up front for Racing rightly secured him a starting berth in the recent friendly against neighbours Holland. New national team coach Marc Wilmots clearly rates him and he grabbed himself a goal, making a mockery of Joris Mathijsen at the back, with a very smart finish. As that goal shows you, his best aspect of his game is his positioning. The amount of times he finds space is frightening. By the same token, his worst aspect is his finishing, in the sense that he’s never really been clinical. In his last game in Belgium against Zulte-Waregem, he missed at least 3 gilt-edged chances right in front of goal. Once he got going with Genk last season (and the start of this one), he does find the net with some frequency but his lack of a predatory instinct had dogged him at previous clubs. Perhaps his head had been turned by the purported English interest last week.
As some remarked to me on Twitter, he has an air of an Eredivisie striker in him. He reads the game quite well, but I’m not sure just he can be relied upon straight away. Benteke has already talked up a partnership between him and Bent (Villa fans can stick an extra ‘eke’ on their shirts if he’s in form). I think that his arrival does lift the pressure of Bent, but Villa fans shouldn’t expect Benteke to hit the ground running. He’s a raw talent and I’m still convinced this move is too early for him. He could be the sort of player to let the heavy heights of the Premier League go to his head, so it will be down to Lambert’s iron fist to make sure his new striker keeps his feet on the ground and integrates him into the squad. That’s more down to him though.
For Genk, a reported £7m was too good to turn down (their record sale), but the way Benteke/his agent facilitated the move left a sour taste in the mouth. He claimed to have a mysterious illness, when he was in fact looking for a way out. He’s been booed throughout his career as many fans haven’t taken to him and I don’t think Villa will buck the trend, as they need leaders in the dressing room. Benteke is not that.
Verdict – Jury’s out but expect it to backfire horrendously. A year too early for Benteke to even warrant a move abroad, and not sure if he’s the right man to lift Villa
As, I said before, I think this verdict is a little harsh, especially when you consider the following:
a) He’s only 21 and not the finished product
b) Some players step-up and instantly transform on bigger stages
c) Despite his age, he’s broken into the best Belgium national team since the World Cup semi-finalists of 1986. The team the Belgium press are calling the Golden Generation.
d) He’s already won the Villa faithful over with a goal on his debut.
The Belgium writer here baulks at the £7 million price Villa paid to for a 21-year-old. That’s called getting in early. Fulham and Everton were sniffing around, along with other clubs in Europe. I’m willing to wager, if he banged in the goals for Genk at the start of this season and impressed further for the Belgium national team, he’d have been off to some Champion’s League Club in the January window for a figure in excess of what Villa paid.
In the short-term, at least, Benteke has done a pretty good job of lifting the Villa faithful. He’s slotted in nicely as our new fan favourite talisman and offers our attack a whole new dimension. Lets hope he can keep it up! UTV
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