The MOMS party line on Christian Benteke towards the end of last season was if Aston Villa stay up, he stays at the club, albeit with an improved contract. However, reading between-the-lines of recent newspaper headlines and informed comment from a selection of sources, the Christian Benteke contract situation is far from clean-cut.
It has also served up the first intriguing conflict of Paul Lambert’s old school principled ethos to modern game economics.
Lambert’s approach of plucking young talent from overseas and lower leagues means Villa can obtain their services at lower wages than the Premiership norm, but if they impress, their agents will invariably demand more for their client in the preseason that follows ala Benteke.
When the ‘Villa want £40 Million for Benteke’ headline started doing the rounds in the press, it was a clear indication that Villa had reached logger heads with Benteke’s agent Eris Kismet regarding Benteke’s potential improved contract. When a club leaks something like that, it means an agent is asking for too much, so they issue a coded ‘hands off’ to other clubs to make the agent think again.
Benteke was signed up by Lambert on around £20,000-a-week, yet after making such an impact in the Premier League, it was a given that Benteke would be rewarded with an improved contract.
Looking at some of the existing Villa player contracts and weighing up Benteke’s value to the team, the basic maths that have been suggested to MOMS is Benteke would have been offered around the £50,000 mark, thus more than doubling his wages.
Yet, this amount would have irked Benteke’s agent, leading to the recent run of media headlines of clubs interested in the player. Both the club and agent in these situations use the media as pawns to seek the higher ground in their contract negotiations.
Benteke’s agent will be thinking, ‘Darren Bent is on over £60,000-a-week, and his client’s contribution to Aston Villa last season has been far beyond Bent’s’. Also, players like Ireland and Delph, just to name two, have been earning around twice what Benteke did last season.
Villa to some extent are victims of the wages paid to players under previous management regimes, which is why Lambert must rid the club of those players asap.
Kismet will also have reminded Villa that Benteke is now an international striker for a national team that are potentially good enough to reach the World Cup semi-finals next year, and that in 2013, only Ronaldo and Messi scored more goals than Benteke this year in Europe’s top leagues.
When you also factor in that Andy Carroll is reported to be chasing wages of £100,000 a week in his next move, that’s probably the ballpark of where Kismet sees Benteke’s worth. Although, if Carroll gets that, then Benteke must be worth even more!
Paul Lambert’s response to that kind of figure would no doubt be limited to two words.
“If there is a team, a bigger team playing European football next season, that shows interest to Villa concerning Christian, I would be lying if I said Christian would ignore that,” Kismet admitted, at a time he was trying to subdue newspaper rumours of Benteke trying to force a move away from Villa Park.
Talk of players wanting to play European football, essentially translate to ‘wants to and can earn more money’.
If a team out there wants to pay silly wages to Benteke, then Villa’s ‘£40 million’ smokescreen is there to make them think twice. Lambert would probably settle for closer to the £25 million mark to rid himself of Benteke, if the Belgian prefers to do a smash and grab for wages, rather than play for the Villa shirt.
Yet, who would buy him? At a) that price tag and b) the kind of wages Benteke’s agent would try to broker for him.
Rumoured suitors so far…
Borussia Dortmund were suddenly ‘interested’ in Benteke, but you can disregard them straight away, as their principled stance on wages will not cater for what Benteke’s agent thinks he’s worth. Dortmund are losing their top players to Bayern, because they won’t pay stupid wages.
Atlético Madrid is a case of lazy journalism of the 1+1 =3 variety. After a windfall from the sale of the Falcao deal, it doesn’t mean they’ll blow it all in one go. However, they will be looking to reinforce for their Champion’s League campaign next season. It’s unlikely Benteke would want to change league and country again, so soon, but money talks.
Fiorentina offers up pretty much the Italian version of the Atlético equation. They also have qualified for the Champion’s League, so not unlikely, but were they just a name fed by Kismet to the papers, simply because of their Champion’s League status? There would be more chance of David Platt going to Bari in the 1990’s…oh, hang on.
Tottenham Hotspur have mainly come up in the press as a Benteke suitor, as the top four Premiership teams will feel they have better tried-and-tested options already up front, than paying massive wages on a player who has only really shown form over a matter of months. The mooted Defoe make-weight deal is a red herring, and the product of seemingly clueless journalism that has little understanding of the Villa manager’s project. Remember the Stephen Ireland and James Milner swap deal? Do you think Lambert will end up with an older player like Defoe, whose wage will dwarf Benteke’s original wage? No.
Liverpool has cropped up in some papers as a possible destination, but it would be a surprising move by Brendan Rogers to splash out on Villa’s Belgian international. Rogers prefers more shrewd purchases rather than the ‘wham bam type’ that Dalglish squandered countless millions on.
In the end, Villa does offer Benteke first team security with the World Cup coming up , but also there is a feeling that he owes Villa and Lambert at least another season for making him.
While Benteke was at Genk, Arsenal had a sniff at him, but ultimately didn’t move for him. When he joined Villa, Benteke was even considered as a raw and perhaps weak-link in the star-studded Belgium national team. Indeed, the Belgium press were unconvinced and thought he’d moved to the Premiership too soon.
Lambert took a punt on the then 21-year-old Belgian and if he leaves after just one season, like the Clash song ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go? alludes to, if he goes, ‘there will be trouble’; especially if he returns to Villa Park with another Premiership club.
It’s unlikely Benteke will find the same love he’s gained from the Villa faithful next season with another team. But is there room in the modern game for such emotions and sentiment?
Lambert will dig his heels in and not be held to ransom, but at the same time Benteke’s agent would do well to find Benteke a satisfactory club that would force a move away from Villa Park. Here at MOMS, considering all the factors, and Benteke’s reported decent and humble nature, we will stick to our earlier prognosis that Benteke will stay.
However, as I’m sure Lambert will fully realise, to minimise the effects on the Villa team, it will be important that Christian Benteke’s contract talks don’t drag out into a summer saga. UTV
Christian Benteke has handed in a transfer request, no doubt under the advice of his agent. Spurs seem to be the media’s favourite, even though they have just spent £17 million on Paulinho. It would be a scary thought to think Villa are now selling their best players to the likes of Spurs, who aren’t even a Top Four club. Villa will not up their offer, so any club who wants to have a chance of wooing Benteke must drop the aforementioned £25 million on the table to begin any talks.
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