Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke is in a position where he could have his pick of Premier League clubs this summer, if his buy-out clause is met.
Benteke has a release clause of £32.5 million in his contract, and Villa boss Tim Sherwood has conceded he is ‘powerless’ to prevent the Belgium international from leaving.
Sherwood has urged Benteke to consider the merits of changing clubs this summer ahead of a season which will end with the European Championship in France.
Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have all been linked with bids for Benteke, but no offers have yet been made, although Brendan Rodgers’ side are the odds-on favourites to sign him.
The 24-year-old, who has scored 42 goals in 89 Premier League appearances for Villa since moving from Genk three years ago, has no plans to sign a new contract as he is keen to play European football.
But, with Benteke still having two years to run on his existing deal, Villa are under no pressure to sell or accept bids below his release clause. If an acceptable offer is made, though, where should Benteke go?
Here we take a look at the merits of joining the four Premier League clubs he has been linked with this summer:
Jose Mourinho is keen to improve his attacking options at Chelsea and already has a loan deal lined up for Radamel Falcao, who failed to shine at Manchester United last season.
Falcao will help to replace Didier Drogba and it’s hard to see how the Colombian will be anything more than back-up to Diego Costa. The presence of Costa must surely be a reason for Benteke to also think long and hard about joining the Premier League champions.
Costa proved in his first season at Chelsea that he can be a prolific striker, and he also forged a good understanding with Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard. You can understand why Mourinho would be interested in signing Benteke as he possesses many of the same characteristics as Costa.
He is physically strong and is capable of intimidating defenders, but he also has a sound technique and knows how to score goals. Given the number of chances Chelsea will create through the likes of Fabregas and Hazard, Benteke can easily be expected to reach at least 20 Premier League goals in a season for the first time.
The issue, of course, is whether he would get the regular football he needs ahead of the European Championship.
Costa’s hamstring troubles in the second half of last season are clearly a concern for Mourinho, but he is unlikely to ditch the Spain international from his first-choice starting line-up, even if he spends big on Benteke. With Mourinho preferring a system of only one striker in his side, then Benteke would most likely start on the bench.
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) July 1, 2015
The favourites to sign Benteke, the striker’s 25/1 price at the time of writing with betfair to be the Premier League’s top scorer won’t last long if he moves to Anfield. Reports have suggested that Liverpool are reluctant to meet Benteke’s asking price and you can see why there are doubts given the way a string of big-money signings have failed to fire for the club over the past two or three seasons. Yet given Liverpool have just spent not far off the fee required for Benteke on signing Roberto Firmino from Hoffenheim, it’s hard to understand that reluctance.
Benteke has proven himself in the Premier League and has clearly fully recovered from the Achilles injury which saw him miss the 2014 World Cup.
His general injury record is good, which has to be a positive after the problems experienced by Daniel Sturridge last season. He has also scored enough times against Liverpool to demonstrate to Brendan Rodgers what he can offer. Benteke is also said to favour a move to Anfield, although he won’t put in a transfer request to force a deal.
If Rodgers thinks that Benteke is the right striker to lead the line next season, then upping their bid from a reported initial £20million is a must.
Ultimately, Benteke is either the right striker for Rodgers or he isn’t. If he is, he is worth spending the money. If he isn’t, then what’s the point in trying to get him for a bargain after the failed Mario Balotelli experiment?
United have reportedly made an enquiry for Benteke and must be in the market for a striker after the end of Falcao’s loan and the uncertainty over Robin van Persie’s future.
In many ways, Benteke has the qualities to fit into the United team. With the likes of Angel Di Maria, Ashley Young and Memphis Depay to call upon, United will be getting plenty of crosses into the box for Benteke to get on the end of. And, after the Falcao troubles of last season, United will also be getting a striker who has proven he is over a serious injury and has scored regularly in the Premier League.
From Benteke’s point of view, there would again be a question mark over whether he would be guaranteed regular first-team football. There were plenty of occasions last season when Louis van Gaal played with two strikers, and you could see that working with Benteke alongside Wayne Rooney.
Alternatively, Rooney could play as the link man in a 4-3-3 formation, with Benteke as the spearhead in a move which would likely see his Belgium team-mate Marouane Fellaini dropping out of the side.
Yet United arguably looked at their best and most dangerous last season when Rooney played as the lone striker, and that must be something Van Gaal is considering over the summer. Benteke will know that competition is a necessity at the big clubs, and there can never be guarantees of a starting role, but whoever he chooses to join, he will at least expect to start the first game. Just as at Chelsea, that’s not nailed on at United.
Benteke was interested in joining Spurs two years ago when he handed in a transfer request at the end of his impressive debut season at Villa. He has again been linked with a move to White Hart Lane amid reports Emmanuel Adebayor could head in the opposite direction. Spurs can at least offer European football to Benteke for next season, yet there are far too many question marks over this move happening.
The first is whether Spurs can afford, or are prepared, to meet Benteke’s buy-out clause.
The second is the claim that Benteke is still hurt over what happened two years ago when he thought he may be heading to White Hart Lane. There may now be a new manager, but the chairman remains the same and it would only be natural for Benteke to have doubts.
Another reason for Benteke to be cautious about going to Spurs is that Mauricio Pochettino will generally play with just one out-and-out striker. And, given the way Harry Kane progressed last season, it seems inconceivable that Pochettino would be willing to jettison the home-grown product in order to accommodate Benteke in his starting line-up. Of course, if United were to follow up their interest in Kane, then there would be an opening for Benteke and no real competition to be Spurs’ No.1 striker.