Christian Benteke – Tottenham, Arsenal or Liverpool?

Last summer Aston Villa bought Christian Benteke for £7m from Genk, a move that even Belgian football pundits thought fraught with risk. Now, they have one of the most desirable players in the Premier League, who is being linked with Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool. They have been attracted by his prototypical physique, speed, power, goals, heading ability and the fact that he improved so quickly last season. So if Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool are the domestic suitors, where would be best for him to go to? Or would he better off staying at Villa?

Spurs are being linked most strongly with Benteke of the three so are a logical place to start. There is no doubt, and precious little secrecy about Spurs’ summer priority and that is to sign an upgrade on their current strikers. They have been linked with Leandro Damiao, Jackson Martinez, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Benteke most prominently. There is an obvious theme to all of these; physical presence combined with ruthless finishing. In other words, they want a hybrid of what they currently have. They want the power and pace of Adebayor with the finishing of Jermain Defoe.

What all of these options have in their favour is consistency, but what makes Benteke such an intriguing option is that he has done it consistently in the Premier League. He has already shown that he can score goals against the opposition Spurs will have to overcome to get back in to the top four. Now, despite his improvements, he is still very raw. There is real doubt as to whether he is quite ready to lead a team to the top four and the idea of Spurs signing him depends of Gareth Bale’s future. If Spurs sell Bale they can’t sign Benteke to be their main man. He is not ready to be that figurehead at the top of the league. If they keep Bale, then Benteke would be a great option. Spurs are Bale’s team, so if he stays Benteke can play and learn and improve without the pressure of carrying them on his back. He would have a dream supply line to help him find his feet.

Christian Benteke

Arsenal have also been linked to Benteke but it is unclear whether the Emirates would be the best landing spot for him. Arsenal play a different style of football to Spurs, where the striker is more involved in the build-up play. At Spurs he would be allowed to roam the penalty box as he was at Villa. At Arsenal he would need to be more sophisticated and versatile, and at this stage he is not ready to be that. Spurs bombard the box with crosses, Arsenal do not. They have got a big penalty box man in Olivier Giroud, supposedly to offer a different dimension but most of Arsenal’s goals still came with passing or quick counter attacking which is more reliant on the attacking midfielders. Benteke has more potential than Giroud, but at this stage is at best a minor upgrade. Arsenal seem to readying bids for players like Stevan Jovetic, who carry an expectation of a title challenge. They would be better off spending big money on a world-class striker for the time being.

Liverpool have supposedly joined the race on the basis that Luis Suarez could be leaving. But, since the arrival of Daniel Sturridge, Suarez has played either in behind or out left, his old Ajax position. Sturridge is the striker that Brendan Rdogers believes in. He wants three tricky attackers in behind a quick goal-scoring striker. He seems to be prioritising adding a third option to Philippe Coutinho and Iago Aspas rather than striker. There’s a possibility that Sturridge could be moved wide right but that’s not why he was bought. Benteke’s role at Anfield is undefined.

Villa will of course, not let him go lightly, if at all. The problem for any club trying to buy him will be finding a fee that Villa find acceptable. He’s probably worth £15m or so, given his raw talent and goal output, but he is worth more than that to Villa. If they sell him, who are they replacing him with? He was singlehandedly responsible for them staying up last season so selling him would be a huge risk. The best solution for Villa would be to keep him for this season, and if he’s scored another 20+ goals he will be worth £20m, and more. There is no reason for them to sell him this summer unless they get a mind blowing offer. For Benteke, another season as guaranteed starter could give him the edge over Romelu Lukaku in the race to start for Belgium at the 2014 World Cup.


Five players Aston Villa should sign this summer

Last summer saw a complete philosophical switch from Aston Villa in the transfer market. Having spent big on players with Premier League experience under Martin O’Neill, the club moved towards signing young players from outside of the Premier League. This was primarily from the Football League with the odd notable Belgian exception. Although the common understanding is that Villa didn’t spend a lot of money, they actually spent a fair chunk. Not as much as the O’Neill years, but still a not unreasonable amount. With this in mind, and Paul Lambert’s success with signing outside of the Premier League at Norwich, there is every reason to think it will continue.

Rhys Williams – Middlesbrough

Scout Report Williams is Middlesbrough’s captain at just 24 years of age. He is a big physical presence in the centre of defence or in defensive midfield, and is equally comfortable throwing his body in front of a shot as he is in gliding forwards with the ball into midfield to set attacks in motion. His seasons of Championship football make him ready for the step up to the big show.

Rhys Williams
Where does he fit? Villa have had a merry-go-round in the centre of their defence. Whether operating a two or three-man central system they have struggled to get a settled and performing pair. Ron Vlaar, Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker have all been used with mixed results. Williams would add some much needed quality.
How much? £3-4m, right in Villa’s price range.

Marco van Ginkel

Scout Report Van Ginkel has surged to prominence in the Vitesse Arnhem central midfield this season, scoring seven goals and making a further ten. He is skilful, fleet footed and tricky. He’s only 20 but is able to take command of games in the competitive Eredivisie.

Marco van Ginkel
Where does he fit? Villa are chronically weak in central midfield and their biggest weakness is a lack of players who can make something unusual happen in games. They have got a bunch of plodders in there at the moment, a halfway house of guys who are neither overly creative or forceful enough in the tackle.
How much? It would take about £7m to pry him away, which is about the range they got Christian Benteke in and that one worked out well. They did it once; they can do it again.

Harry Maguire – Sheffield United

Scout Report Maguire is the 20-year-old at the heart of the Sheffield United defence, where he has been for several years. He’s big, quick and good on the ball. Added to his innate technical and physical qualities is his burgeoning football intelligence and positioning, which has improved massively as he has gained first-team experience over the years.

Harry Maguire
Where does he fit? Maguire has all the raw tools that Lambert would be looking for at the back. His preferred system involves his defenders being able to utilise the ball from deep. The point of the wing-backs is that they provide the only width in the team, but the problem with that is that they need time to get forward. This happens when the back three are able to move the ball around to give them time to get in to position. Maguire would slot straight in to that.
How much? £1-2m if Sheffield United make a mess of promotion, maybe £3m if they go up.

Will Hughes – Derby County

Scout Report Not hard to spot on the field with his shock of blonde hair, but it is not just that that makes you watch him. As a 17-year-old who has been given his footballing education in a period when three-man attacks are prevalent, he is able to operate anywhere across the front line. He is quick, skilful and has an eye for goal.

Will Hughes
Where does he fit? Villa need to add some sparkle to their attack to complement the hard running Andreas Weimann and bullish Benteke, and Hughes can be developed to be that.
How much? Derby aren’t in position where they could turn down £3-4m

Michail Antonio – Sheffield Wednesday

Scout Report Antonio brings pace and directness from his right wing position. He is powerful and strong to add to his pace, and is starting to produce more and more in attacking areas.

Michail Antonio
Where does he fit? Villa do not really have any width, and this has been their undoing on many occasions, most infamously when chasing Bradford in the cup semi-final. Charles N’Zogbia sent his twin brother to play for them and Marcus Albrighton has vanished, so Villa need some pace and width. Plus, Antonio fits the profile Lambert likes; young players who have worked their way up the lower leagues to earn their Premier League shot.
How much? £1-2m would make sense for both sides.

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Five players Tottenham Hotspur should sign this summer

Over the last couple of years Tottenham have had a key theme underpinning their transfer activity; value. They don’t shop for need necessarily, but if the value is right they will make the move. Hugo Lloris, Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson were hardly need fillers but all offered great value. The same can be said for Emmanuel Adebayor, Rafa van der Vaart and Scott Parker. They seem to have left the days where they would spend £15m on David Bentley well behind them. They have also recently moved on from their strategy of harvesting young English based players; the likes of Aaron Lennon, Gareth Bale, Michael Dawson and Kyle Walker have all made their way to the first team from that phase. They could look to go down either of those routes:

Youssuf Mulumbu – West Brom

Youssuf Mulumbu

Scout Report A powerful, hard-working defensive midfielder, Mulumbu is good at breaking up the attacks of opponents. His agility and strength means that he is both good at intercepting and strong in the tackle. He has a wonderful enthusiasm for work and his selfless approach rubs off on his team-mates. He is tidy on the ball and rarely makes mistakes.

Where does he fit? Andre Villas-Boas has tended to deploy two deep midfielders to allow Bale a free license. Sandro is injury plagued and Scott Parker hasn’t reached the levels of a couple of seasons ago. Mulumbu is 26, experienced in the Premier League and can play straight away. He would be a valuable piece in the midfield.

How much? West Brom do their business efficiently so a bid of £6-7m would represent a good profit for them. It fits nicely in Spurs’ value range too. His contract expires in 2014 so it’s a similar situation to Dempsey.

Radja Nainggolan – Cagliari

Radja Nainggolan

Scout Report Nainggolan is a 24 year old Belgian midfield dynamo. A genuine all rounder, he is tough, energetic and composed on the ball. Having dropped deeper in to the midfield than he played in his youth, he is better using his aggression in his new deeper position. He is all action, gets in your face, takes the ball off you and then picks out a quality pass. Yet another Belgian superstar in the making.

Where does he fit? Spurs don’t really have anyone like him at the moment. He offers a bit more on the ball than Sandro and Parker and with some seasoning and experience could become a dominant presence.

How much? Cagliari are not in a strong enough financial position to resist good offers. Something like £12m would do it, which for a 24 year old potential superstar is very good value. His contract also expires in 2014 so the £12m is a discount on his true value. Spurs should pounce on him whilst they can.

Christian Eriksen – Ajax

Christian Eriksen

Scout Report A sublimely talented young man, Eriksen has been compared to no lesser than his idol Michael Laudrup. Possessing of all the finest attacking qualities, Eriksen is technically supreme. He has rapid feet and can receive and move the ball before the defender gets near him. He pops up with his share of goals and provides a supply line of opportunities to his strikers. He gets himself in to areas that are very difficult to defend. You can keep him quiet for 88 minutes and then he will do something magical to win a game. He’s like watching a Danish Andres Iniesta.

Where does he fit? Spurs have had some problems unlocking defences at times when their A game breaks down over the last couple of years. If Bale gets shut down they can look a bit listless. They have added Lewis Holtby to try and provide that but brining in Eriksen too would give them an amazing creative hub. If they can find a striker to take all the chances Eriksen, Holtby and Bale create they could work themselves towards being a serious Premier League dark horse.

How much? Another whose contract expires in 2014, reducing his true value, Eriksen could probably be acquired for around £15m which could prove to a monster snip. It’s about what they laid out to get Luka Modric, who was at a similar stage of his career.

Christian Benteke – Aston Villa

Christian Benteke

Scout Report Benteke is an absolute powerhouse of a young striker. That he has made such a dramatic impact playing in such an awful Aston Villa side is testament to his potential. He has pace, power and goals to offer. Dominant in the air and in the hold-up phase, he is a worthy target man and can only get better at just 22.

Where does he fit? Spurs need a striker. Adebayor has looked ineffective and Defoe blows too hot and cold for a title challenge. Benteke would give Spurs a completely different option, able to nod home crosses and race on to the tight passes that the creative players are able to feed him with. He could easily score 20+ goals with such good players around him considering what he has done at Villa.

How much? This would depend completely on whether or not Villa get relegated. If they do then he could probably be had for around £7m, but if they stay up they are in such dire financial straits that surely a bid in the £13m range would sorely tempt them to sell. Spurs could comfortably afford that if they make the Champions League.

Jackson Martinez – FC Porto

Jackson Martínez

Scout Report Martinez is the latest striker to attend the Porto finishing school and emerge with his reputation rapidly enhanced. He has already scored 23 goals in Portugal this season, which compares favourably with alumni Radamel Falcao and Hulk. He has pace and inventiveness to match his finishing abilities. When he gets in to a groove he can be impossible to stop.

Where does he fit? Tottenham love pace in attack and they need someone to take chances more ruthlessly. AVB could tell him to roam around the defensive line waiting to be put through on goal and not worry about involving himself in general play. The sight of Martinez and Bale hurtling at defences together would terrify opposition managers.

How much? Porto are a hard club to buy from so this probably wouldn’t be their priority. It depends if they sell anyone else, which would drive the price up, but if Spurs move quickly he could be gotten for £12-15m.

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