It appears as if Christian Benteke is headed for Liverpool. At this time of year, it’s always prudent to treat transfer stories with suspicion, but the volume of reports certainly suggests that the Belgian’s release-clause has been activated and that a move is quite likely.
Speculation has surrounded Liverpool and Benteke for quite a long time now, so much so that - in some places - the transfer has already been pre-judged. Rather than evaluating it in economic terms, the focus seems to be on whether the forward would be a stylistic-fit for Anfield.
There’s a statistic from last season which shows Liverpool’s comparative distrust for long-balls. Similarly, the same set of numbers demonstrate that Brendan Rodgers does not emphasise open-play crossing as a means of a chance-creation.
The logic, therefore, seems to be that Benteke - who is obviously aerially excellent - would be fundamentally redundant in a system within which possession retention is key and the ball spends most of its time on the floor.
There’s some truth to that, but it cannot be the basis for judging this transfer - if and when it does happen.
Teams don’t necessarily always buy players to fit their existing tendencies. Rather than viewing Benteke as a knee-jerk response to the departure of Raheem Sterling and the swelling of the club’s bank balance, maybe it really represents the intention to diversify the side’s offensive approach?
All competitive teams have a range of forwards. Instead of stock-piling players who are able to contribute in roughly the same way, the truly elite generally look to amass as broad a range of attributes as possible. In some instances - Chelsea, for example - there is a central, governing philosophy which determines that all forwards must have certain abilities, but that doesn’t seem to be the Liverpool way at the moment.
Last Summer, in response to Luis Suarez’s move away, the club signed two forwards, in Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli, who provided an obvious contrast to Daniel Sturridge. They both failed, of course, but that owed more to the specific individuals than to the philosophy itself.
This year, Liverpool are able to approach that situation with not only the benefit of hindsight, but also a far bigger budget.
Christian Benteke was still recovering from injury this time last year and his commitment to Aston Villa was evidently much stronger than it is now. Twelve months on, though, he is fit and agitating for a move - and, subsequently, has fallen within Liverpool’s cross-hairs.
It’s the same philosophy, just with a bit of refinement and backed by far more money.
The question, then, isn’t “how will the player work within the existing conditions?” but “what is it that he will allow Liverpool to do differently next season?”
Spending over £30m on a player comes with a commitment and it would be naive to think that this transfer won’t be accompanied by a deference to Benteke’s abilities.
Will Liverpool suddenly start turning the sky black with footballs? No, but they will have the option to do that if they so wish and, let’s not forget, Christian Benteke is not a single-dimension targetman incapable of using his feet. He’s a gifted technical player who’s actually very good on the floor, but who will come with the happy bonus of providing another avenue of attack.
Forget the fee and the historic statistics, this would be an excellent signing.