By Matt Villan
Last weekend was disappointing, there’s no two ways about it. It was our one shot at glory for what could transpire to be a very long time. The players were uninspired, the game plan was bland and one-dimensional, and Arsenal were unfortunately quite fantastic.
May 30th was also, with Tim’s announcement in the pre-match press conference on Thursday, probably the last time we see Benteke in a Villa top. This might not be a bad thing.
The press spent the next few days digesting the value of Christian Benteke’s release clause, which was claimed to be £32.5m. That’s rather a lot of money, when put next to the fees other players have gone for – last summer Diego Costa cost Chelsea £32m, Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel currently hold the Belgian transfer record fee, at £30m. Romelu Lukaku, generally considered inferior to Benteke went for £28m last year (although he does have age on his side) and Bony cost Manchester City £25m in January.
Have no doubts about it, we’re getting an awful lot of money here if he goes for this fee. Of course, you have to consider whether the release clause is true or not – maybe it’s just a smokescreen to put off potential suitors and also absolve Tom Fox and co from the unpopular outcome of losing Villa’s best player? After all, it seems the Belgian forward wants to do whatever it takes ‘legally’ to leave Villa Park.
A lot of negativity surrounds the idea of selling your best players, and that’s understandable. The perceived wisdom is if you’re not a buying club (a United, a Chelsea, a Barcelona) then you are a selling club and your raison d’etre is simply to manufacture talent to be poached off you by one of these bigger clubs. This is true, but it’s what happens next, and how it happens that is significant.
Often, as we have seen with Liverpool last summer and Tottenham the season before, when a club is in receipt of a significant transfer fee they tend to divide it up and squeeze as much out of it as they possibly can. We’ve also seen this clearly doesn’t work, what with how these clubs have struggled to integrate these vast legions of new players.
Instead we should look to see how Southampton invested over the summer, identifying clearly talented players who could improve their squad- give a Liverpool fan a choice between Lallana and Tadic, or Lambert and Pelle or Mane and I think the choice would be easy for them. We “selling” clubs shouldn’t be afraid of losing our stars, if anything we should relish it because it means we’ll be able to get our hands on the keenly identified and thoroughly scouted targets who our scouts have been observing in the anticipation of the large influx of income generated by the departure of one of their previous “hits”.
To me, this seems the only way that we’ll be able to reach targets such as making a cup final again or the “promised land” of the Europa League. Whilst it seems tempting to hold on to what little one has- say for us Benteke, and hope that he can propel us forward with his undoubted talent unfortunately if this is the path followed then chances are he’ll have to do it all by himself.
You can’t build a squad around him without the large influx of cash that is either provided by the Champions League or letting him go. Whilst this seems counter-intuitive, replacing a 20-goal striker with both a 15-goal striker who is maybe a little more raw, and another first-teamer who can supply the new boy may well end up working better in the long run.
There is of course a balance to be sought- clubs like Newcastle have allowed their owners’ greediness to get in the way of the successful operation of a football club and allowed their squads to degenerate to a degree that they’re no longer functional units.
If this balance can be found, then whilst it may be a slow method of growth, two steps forward one step back, in the long term this is our best chance of escaping the FFP-induced ossification of the league, where the rich clubs get richer, leaving us second-rate sides behind in terms of footballing ability and global empires. It’ll take a long time, and no doubt it’ll seem at times a fruitless task, but to really move forward as an entity, this is the way, if the path is followed wisely.
Follow Matt on Twitter – @dvtavfc
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