In August 2012 Aston Villa dipped into the transfer market to secure the signature of Christian Benteke from KRC Genk on the back of a season in which he scored 10 goals from 26 league matches, with 9 of those arriving in his final 12 appearances of the season.
Villa supporters had every right to be sceptical about the credentials of a player arriving from the elite tier of Belgian football who was just 21-years-old when he signed for the club, but at a measly £7 million it was a risk which paid dividends.
Prolific goalscorers are like gold dust in Premier League football – they are difficult to find but their impact can represent the difference between relegation and survival.
Doubters of the Belgian target man were forced to eat their words immediately as he scored on his debut with a late strike to clinch three points against Swansea City, and his early impact set the tone for a glistening career.
Indeed, Villa had managed to find the elusive prolific goalscorer which relegation-threatened clubs crave.
He ended the season with 19 goals from 34 appearances, and he went on to score 49 times for Villa in 101 appearances – a record which drew interest from outside Villa Park and ultimately persuaded Liverpool to fork out £32.5 million in July 2015.
Three years of excellent service with the Villans and £25.5 million profit stuffed into the proverbial back pocket, Benteke’s departure was disappointing but financially necessary on balance.
However, Benteke’s career has been on a concerning downward spiral ever since he left Villa for Liverpool, and he now finds himself struggling to do anything right at Crystal Palace where the supporters have grown tired of his immobile approach and complete inability to find the back of the net.
The step up to a bigger club in Liverpool didn’t suit Benteke and his transfer to Palace gave him some temporary reprieve as he notched 15 Premier League goals on his debut season, but that fantastic return feels light years away now.
Was Benteke simply overachieving at Villa in a side which played to his strengths? Have Premier League defenders found a way of nullifying his threat in the penalty area? Or is Benteke suffering a crisis of confidence and destined to return to the top of his game with Palace?
These are just some questions to arise from Benteke’s lengthy stint in English football so far, but what is for certain is that the 34-cap Belgium international has never looked like the same player since he left Villa and, on balance, it’s fair to say they cashed in on him at exactly the right time.
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