As I'm sure you know by now, Liverpool have completed the signing of Roberto Firmino from Bundesliga club Hoffenheim for £29 million. The move is the biggest this summer for Liverpool, but it may turn out to be one of the most important of the summer for Aston Villa, as well.
Christian Benteke is, of course, Villa's hottest commodity. With a release clause of £32.5 million, he's an exceptionally talented player who can be guaranteed to be had by a team with enough money (and any team that can pay that is likely a team that Benteke would be happy to go to). The club most frequently connected to Benteke this summer has been Liverpool. After a disappointing season that saw them falter and score only 52 goals, Benteke looked like the type of player who could slot in and be an instant help.
With the move for Firmino, though, it seems increasingly unlikely that Brendan Rodgers will continue his rumoured pursuit of the Belgian striker. It's partially a needs thing. Firmino has a lot of the same skills (ball control, creativity, ability to score and assist) that Benteke has. Sure, he's in a slightly different position (attacking midfield vs. striker), but there's a lot of overlap there.
But that's not a huge problem. In fact, Firmino and Benteke could be a really interesting pairing to watch. Two players with the ability to hold up and control play working with one another could be a deadly combination. In theory, it could work quite well. That's not a theory that you want to pay £61.5 million for, though.
And there's the big rub. £29 million is a lot to pay for a player. If you're Chelsea or Manchester City, maybe it's not. But unless you're in the absolute top echelon of wealth, that's a big chunk of change. Liverpool are near the point where they can spend that money without even worrying, but they aren't quite there yet. Especially given how they wasted the money they spent last summer. It's hard to imagine ownership giving Rodgers quite as much free reign with their cheques this year.
So the signing of Firmino drastically reduces the chances that Liverpool are going to sign Benteke. And while there have been other rumours out there, at a bare minimum this removes one suitor for his signature. With the dominoes falling, Firmino is definitely Liverpool's biggest signing this year, but he could also be the move that means Benteke stays at Villa. Tim Sherwood may have just saved his star striker by watching Brendan Rodgers spend money. That would be a pretty neat trick.