Tom Fox said this morning that Aston Villa will be offering star striker Christian Benteke a new deal over the summer. My gut reaction, and likely yours, was that this is good news. After losing out on Tom Cleverley, and with Ron Vlaar's departure seeming imminent, it's good to see the club trying to retain one of their best players. Keeping star players is a good thing. That's pretty basic.
But when I started writing about the new offer, I started wondering if this was, in fact, the best move that could be made. Selling Christian Benteke means money coming into the club. In fact, given the £32.5 million buyout clause in his contract, it likely means at least that much coming into the club. And that's not an insignificant sum. Sure, part of that would have to go towards replacing Benteke himself, but the rest could be used elsewhere. And Tim Sherwood desperately needs to bolster this club a bit. For sake of conversation, and based on nothing but rumours and intuition, here's my best guess for what the depth chart will look like at the beginning of the season with no new signings.
Keepers: Brad Guzan, Shay Given, Jed Steer
Right backs: Alan Hutton, Leandro Bacuna
Centre backs: Ciaran Clark, Jores Okore, Nathan Baker
Left backs: Kieran Richardson
Midfielders: Fabian Delph, Carlos Sanchez, Ashley Westwood, Scott Sinclair, Gary Gardner, Jack Grealish, Joe Cole
Forwards: Callum Robinson, Gabby Agbonlahor
You can pull a decent starting XI from that list. And adding Benteke to the forwards certainly helps a bit. But there are some obvious holes to plug. Left back, for instance, is a scary place. Central defense has three great players and no depth. Right backs could use some improvement (and I like Leandro Bacuna). And the forwards are... good lord. Even with Benteke, do we really trust either of Robinson or Gabby to be a competent partner? Robinson has oodles of potential, but it's really easy to envision him struggle adjusting to regular Premier League time.
Some of these names may change, too. But even if you sprinkle in a few people who we think will be leaving, it's obvious that Tim Sherwood needs to re-stock and add depth to the club. Without new owners (and I won't assume that they're a thing until I actually see them), the most likely way that Sherwood will get money to add that depth is by selling. Benteke's fee would pay for a replacement and leave plenty behind to help fill a number of the gaps.
This shouldn't be taken to mean that I don't want Christian Benteke around. Heck, it shouldn't even be read as "Villa should sell Benteke," because there really is no clear solution here. Keep Benteke and you keep one of the best strikers in the league and the linchpin of Aston Villa's attack. You also keep a lot of holes that will need to be patched on very limited funds. Sell Benteke and you lose a prolific player but you also gain the money to finance the transfers this club so obviously needs.
There isn't a right answer here. If the club sell Benteke for the right reasons (to turn around and use that money to rebuild), it's a good decision. If they keep him to build around, it's a good decision. The only way to go wrong here is by making a decision for the wrong reasons. Sell Benteke to pad Randy Lerner's pockets? Bad choice. Keep him and then don't buy players who fit his style? Bad choice.
But what's really intriguing is the fact that we can even consider selling Benteke a good move. Change needs to happen at Villa Park, and the sale of Christian Benteke could be the catalyst that brings that about.