OpinionJohn Aldridge

Liverpool paid over the odds for Benteke but the striker is a proven goal scorer

New dimension: Benteke has completed his big-money move to Liverpool
New dimension: Benteke has completed his big-money move to Liverpool

LIVERPOOL have paid well over the odds to sign Christian Benteke from Aston Villa – but I am still delighted the club have recruited a proven Premier League goal scorer.

From the moment Manchester City threw £49m down on the table to sign Raheem Sterling from Liverpool, it was clear that Villa were not going to accept a penny less than the £32.5m release clause inserted into Benteke’s contract.
 
I bet if you asked people at Liverpool how much they thought they might get for Sterling, they would have said around £30m and yet the fee they got was so incredible that it has had an effect on every deal this summer.
 
Managers and chairmen of clubs will look at the deal for a young kid like Sterling and say ‘if he is worth £49m, then my player is worth a whole lot more than I thought a few weeks ago’.  
 
It may be that we look back on the Sterling and Benteke transfers in a few years’ time and think they were both value for money, with the player Liverpool just sold oozing with potential and the hit-man they have just signed also a player who could develop into the elite bracket.
 
The very best players in the world are unavailable to buy and it means those just below that top level are being valued at levels that do not relate to common sense.
Does it matter that he is not worth the cash my old club have paid to sign him? Probably not. 
 
The way this game is going right now, if Liverpool didn’t agree to pay the fee for Benteke, someone else would have taken him.
 
The huge television revenues flowing into Premier League clubs means they can spend what would previously have been seen as ridiculous sums of cash and justify it by saying they have this money coming in to cover costs.
 
Paying £30m to sign decent players is going to become the norm and we all need to appreciate that the price teams are paying for signings is not as significant as the quality of the player involved.
 
The reason I believe the Benteke deal is right for Liverpool is they have aquired a player who has a proven goalscoring record in English football and he should not need any time to acclimatize to life at Anfield.
 
Benteke has scored 42 goals in 89 league appearances for a very average Villa team and while some people have suggested he is not the kind of player who will fit into the philosophy promoted by Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool, I beg to differ.
 
Okay, so the statistics from last season confirm that Liverpool got fewer crosses into the box than any other team and that would suggest a powerhouse forward like Benteke is not what they need, but I don’t see this guy as a traditional target man.
 
He is more than decent with the ball at his feet, has a good burst of pace to frighten defenders and his presence leading the line will give Liverpool’s attack a focus that it was sadly lacking last season.
 
If Benteke continues his current scoring rate of a goal every other game, Liverpool will become a better team in an instant and I don’t think it is just goals that Rodgers and the Anfield transfer committee have invested in here.
 
Every defender that has come up against Benteke in the last three seasons has appreciated what a handful he is for a variety of reasons, with the influence he should have on other members of the team one of the more exciting aspects of his arrival.
 
Rodgers has a number of gifted, nimble-footed midfield players and the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Jordon Ibe should thrive as they feed Benteke and also make use of the space he will create dragging defenders into areas where they don’t want to be.
 
It may be that Rodgers will need to tinker with his approach to accommodate Benteke, but that can only be a positive in my eyes as I spent most of last season pulling my hair out watching Liverpool.
 
I lost count of how many times I came away from last season thinking ‘if only we had a striker, then we would have half a chance here’.
 
Well now Brendan has a problem with having too many strikers, which has to be a step forward.
 
Rickie Lambert will be heading out of the club shortly and I feel a bit sorry for him because he was never given a proper chance. He would have every right to wonder why Liverpool signed him in the first place.
 
As for Fabio Borini, he has had opportunities and not taken them so he should go as well. One player who is going to be tough to shift is Mario Balotelli because I would be amazed if any club will take him at this stage. 
 
Balotelli is an example of the type of risky signing Liverpool indulged in last summer, but I look at Benteke as the kind of player who has the potential to take the team to the next level. After the goalscoring problems of last season, Liverpool had to spend big this summer and now they have done 
it.  
 
Let’s wait and see if it works.