It would have been entirely understandable for Aston Villa fans to question just who Christian Benteke was when he signed for the club in 2012.
Up until his move to the Midlands, the Belgian forward had played his entire career in his native country, representing the likes of Standard Liege, Kortrijk and Genk, initially failing to make an impression up-front.
However, this all changed in 2012 as Benteke finally found his shooting boots. By bagging a total of 16 goals for Genk in the Belgian Pro League, he attracted the attention of then-Villa boss Paul Lambert who swooped for marksman during the beginnings of the 2012/13 campaign.
In a deal that according to the Guardian was reported to be worth £7m, the Midlands giants secured the signing of Benteke and reaped the rewards immediately as he scored on his Premier League debut against Swansea City. An impressive first season for the forward saw him find the back of the net on 23 occasions yet it was one game in particular that set him well on his way to becoming a cult-hero at Villa Park.
With his side facing a daunting trip to Anfield to face Liverpool, Benteke saw the clash as an opportunity to demonstrate his talent against one of England’s biggest clubs. An incredible display from the former Standard Liege man saw him score twice whilst also providing an assist for Andreas Weimann as Villa secured a stunning 3-1 away victory.
Such was his form during this particular season, if you were to take away his goals then it would have been entirely plausible that the Lions would have been relegated instead of finishing 15th in the Premier League table.
Benteke’s second season with Villa was marred by a number of injuries suffered throughout the campaign which limited his involvement for the club. Nevertheless, he still managed to reach double figures in the league and showed glimpses of his superb technical ability against the likes of Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion.
The 28-year-old’s final year as a Villa player saw him play a starring role in helping the club reach their first FA Cup final in fifteen years. With his side 1-0 behind in the semi-final against Liverpool, Benteke received the ball just inside the area before finishing expertly past Simon Mignolet. A second-half striker by Fabian Delph secured Villa’s place in the final yet it turned out to be a day to forget for Tim Sherwood’s side as they lost 4-0 to Arsenal at Wembley Stadium.
After scoring a total of 49 goals for the Lions in 101 appearances, Benteke moved to Liverpool where he didn’t experience anywhere near the same level of success for the Reds. A frustrating season at Anfield was brought to an end by Crystal Palace who signed him in 2016. Fast-forward three years and the Belgian is once again struggling for form after initially impressing for the Eagles and has yet to score this season in thirteen appearances for the club.
Upon reflection on his career to date, it is safe to say that Benteke’s best campaigns were delivered for a side whose supporters will always remember him as a cult hero; Villa.
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