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23rd Jul 2015

Christian Benteke has earned his chance to shine at Anfield

Nooruddean Choudry

Christian Benteke’s big-money transfer to Liverpool has been mocked and derided from all quarters. There’s an odd perception that Brendan Rodgers has bought a dud.

Ribbing from rival fans is par for the course and wholly understandable, but far stranger is the distinctly lukewarm reception with which a number of Liverpool fans have greeted the signing.

There is a twisted perception that the Merseyside club have bought themselves a totem pole to plonk on the penalty spot and fling crosses at, with Benteke compared to various target men of yore.

The one quality that Benteke legitimately shares with those named is height. He stands an impressive 6ft 3in and there’s no denying that he is imperious in the air. But that is only one aspect of his game.

There is a worry that Liverpool will have to change their tactics to suit their expensive new striker; that Benteke is only of use if the penalty area is peppered with high crosses.

But this is utter nonsense.

Benteke is not a 30-year-old John Hartson, with a very limited (but effective) set of skills. He is 24-years-old and a good four or five years from his prime.

He has the technique, intelligence and ability to adapt to Liverpool’s tactics, just as he adjusted to the various managers and styles during his spell at Villa.

The assumption that he’s simply a large unit who stands about in the area waiting for service is bunkum. He is able to create his own chances and can find the net with the slightest sniff of an opportunity.

Ask any Villa fan. They’ll tell you he is a leader, a true talisman who has won his side countless points through endeavour and skill – such as his draw-saving hat-trick against QPR in last season’s relegation run-in and the winner at Spurs four days later.

To many he seems like half a partnership. He is big and tall and therefore surely one half of a ‘big man, little man’. But that is a tired old template that doesn’t correlate with the Belgian’s line-leading heroics at Villa Park.

Benteke is a legitimate No.9, able to score all sorts of goals. And he is prolific. He played for a side bereft of attacking quality or creative spark, and yet continually invaded the top-scorers’ charts.


Only the most elite strikers to have blessed the Premier League can boast a better record in recent seasons. They are all lauded and praised whilst Benteke is bracketed as the big man upfront.

He is a regular starter for Belgium as part of their golden generation. He is surrounded by master technicians such as Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, and doesn’t look remotely out of place.

And yet some Liverpool fans and many others doubt his quality, even lampooning his signing. Realistically, who else were the Reds supposed to recruit without the lure of Champions League football?

The one legitimate worry about the Benteke’s prospects at Anfield is the serious injury he suffered before last year’s World Cup. A rupture of the Achilles tendon can cause long-lasting complaints.

It can dull the explosive qualities of a striker, but it didn’t stop Benteke being unplayable at times last season.

No one mentioned his Achilles tendon when he scored nine goals in Villa’s last ten games to save them from relegation almost single-handedly.

Benteke deserves his big move. He has earned it. Of course, as with any such transfer it is fraught with some level of risk, but he’s as close to a safe bet as it was possible for Liverpool to find.

With Benteke leading the line, Liverpool could be feasting on a glut of goals when the new season kicks off – and a bit of humble pie too.