Well …. That didn’t take long. As we had somewhat expected, our biggest gem from this season may have already have garnered too much attention for us to be able to contain his glow. Based on the article on Guardian this morning (link below), Christian Benteke may have already decided to flirt with other suitors. I doubt anyone who follows Aston Villa closely would be surprised by this development.
Let me make this clear upfront: Although there are aspects of European football that I have much admiration for, relegation being one, the thing I hate the most without doubt is the rather ease with which the bigger clubs can suck talent from the minnows without any regards for contract status. A promising player can sign a mid-length contract one year and force his team to move him whenever he feels he’s outgrown his current situation. One would argue the minnow can receive considerable compensation but that could hardly be a consolation for all the broken dreams of future promise.
To put this in context, according to reports Christian Benteke has expressed interest in moving to a bigger club, preferably Arsenal in order to help his ambitions of reaching 2016 World Cup in a Belgian uniform. I personally don’t see how much difference it makes whether he plays for Arsenal or Aston Villa, when it comes to selection for international team competition. If he continues to produce at the level he did recently, finishing fourth highest scorer with 19 premiership goals, Belgian national team will have a hard time ignoring him regardless of his club association.
Here is the reality: Aston Villa is unfortunately somewhere in the middle of the food chain. Unless we become a mainstay in European competition, we’re always going to be a spring board for players such as Ashley Young, James Milner and Christian Benteke to reach for greener pasture. The top six clubs in the English Premier League have the history and resources for pillaging other teams and for the same reason; I’m not surprised Benteke has expressed interest in playing for a top six club.
For what it’s worth, Paul Lambert has made it clear he is not going to make it easy for Benteke to walk away. From what we have seen late this season, Paul Lambert seems to have a plan and clearly the Belgian striker is a big part of it going forward. He has warned Benteke that his success may have a pinch of good luck sprinkled on, considering the 2012-13 campaign was injury-free for Benteke. Injuries have been responsible for derailing many careers. Michael Owens comes to mind for me.
As Lambert has rightfully implied, Benteke is already on his way to becoming a star at Villa Park. We had certain expectations and he has fulfilled every one of them. However, he will surely be foolish to expect the same patience from the fans in North London. A few bad performances and he could end up at the end of the bench. In my opinion, it may serve him well to hone his skills for one more year at a club like Aston Villa before taking that leap.
If somehow this saga does end up with Benteke donning a different jersey next season, whether it’s the red and white of Arsenal or the black and gold of Borussia Dortmund, it will surely come at a price. Lambert will be under pressure to re-coup the inevitable losses from the transfer of Darren Bent and a price range between £22 and £30 million for the Benteke transfer has been mentioned. Although a small consolation, it might be wise for Aston Villa to start devising a plan to spend those funds. Paul Lambert may look at using to funds to plug holes in defence and the resulting hole in striker position due to loss of Benteke and Bent.
For now, Lambert has firmly stated he has all intentions of making Benteke happy through a substantial pay-raise, but if the draw of champions league play is too hard to resist for Benteke, we may have no choice but to take the money and look elsewhere. Keep an eye out over the next few weeks as this story develops and eventually end up in either joy or heartache for us Villa fans.
Link to story: Paul Lambert upset with Benteke's comments