This article forms part of our Total Duds feature series, which is where Football Transfer Tavern takes a look at a player who disappointed after being signed, using statistical figures and statements from pundits to illustrate how ill-judged the transfer decision has been.
Liverpool travel to Aston Villa on Saturday with one of the most fearsome attacking units in the Premier League, with the triumvirate of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino already registering 20 goals between them in all competitions this season.
All three were recently nominated for the Ballon D’Or, illustrating the quality that the Reds possess in attack.
It wasn’t always like that for Jurgen Klopp in his time on Merseyside, though. When he came to Liverpool four years ago, he inherited a striker who proved to be one of Brendan Rodgers’ more ill-judged signings.
After the 2014 purchases of Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli flopped (just seven goals between them), the Reds went shopping for strikers again the following summer by bringing in Firmino from Hoffenheim.
Also, following a fine season in the Premier League (13 goals in 29 games), Christian Benteke arrived from Aston Villa for £32.5m, at the time the second most expensive transfer outlay in Liverpool’s history (as per BBC).
The Belgian made a decent start to life at Anfield, scoring the winner on his home debut against Bournemouth and netting a sublime overhead kick in a 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford on the day that Martin Tyler wound up numerous Liverpool fans with his excitable commentary over Anthony Martial’s late goal, as per Manchester Evening News.
Benteke then had a spell on the sidelines with a thigh injury, during which Klopp had replaced Rodgers in the Anfield dugout, and scored in consecutive games upon his comeback. However, from November through to the end of March, he managed just three goals in 17 league games.
As noted by Matt Gault of Football Whispers, the Belgian and Liverpool struggled to adapt to each other’s strengths. Benteke was very much a penalty box predator who thrived on crosses from natural wingers, with 37 of his 42 Premier League goals prior to 2015/16 coming from inside the area.
Liverpool’s four main assists providers that season (James Milner, Firmino, Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho) played centrally rather than out wide. [via TransferMarkt]
Having started the first six league games of that season under Rodgers, he was in the first XI for only eight of Klopp’s first 30 Premier League matches, with the manager also playing him in an FA Cup tie at Exeter where he changed his entire team from their previous game and started the likes of Adam Bogdan, Conor Randall, Cameron Brannagan, Kevin Stewart and Jerome Sinclair (as per The Independent).
Only a year after coming to Liverpool, Benteke was flogged to Crystal Palace, with the Reds managing to extract a fee of £32m including add-ons (as per BBC) for the striker despite his underwhelming season at Anfield.
Despite having a scoring record of 10 goals in 42 Liverpool appearances, Benteke never really thrived under Klopp and the manager’s decision to replace him with Sadio Mane in 2016 has been long since vindicated, with the Senegal forward scoring 68 goals for the club. The Belgian proved to be little improvement on Lambert and Balotelli before him.
Do you feel that Benteke was an expensive flop at Liverpool? Did you expect more out of him when he signed for the club? Have your say by commenting below!
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