Aston Villa Transfer Focus – Benteke request sparks transfer battle

The race to sign striker Christian Benteke is hotting up, after the Belgian handed in an official transfer request. Although manager Paul Lambert was quick to speak of his desire to keep Benteke, the player is unsettled at Aston Villa, and the possibility of a move to a new club is increasing.

Chelsea have become the latest club to be linked with Benteke this summer, with Tottenham Hotspur also looking a likely destination. With both clubs relatively short on strikers, Benteke, after 23 goals in his debut season in England, 19 of which came in the Premier League, could well be the one they are looking at to boost their attacking prowess.

Despite Benteke stating in May that Villa could not stop him from leaving if he wanted, the transfer request was still a surprise and perhaps came partly as a result of the speculation which followed his impressive season. Benteke has had several weeks to consider his future since the end of last season, and has now arrived at the conclusion that he wants to leave.

Lambert’s reaction to the request was disappointment. He said: “It’s important that people appreciate we are trying to build something strong and vibrant here at the club, something this club demands and stands for, and we want Christian to be part of that.” Villa also said in a statement that they still expect the 22-year-old to stay, with three years still to run on his contract.

Villa are thought to value Benteke at around £25m, a price tag which has the potential to put off his many suitors. While that fee would represent a large profit – after just one season – on the £7m paid to sign him, but Spurs seem unwilling to meet Villa’s valuation, with £15m likely to be their highest offer at this stage, according to Goal.com.

Benteke earned many plaudits for his performances last season in a side that struggled overall. However, he lacks experience playing for a club challenging for major honours, and the pressure and expectation it brings. He might be viewed as a player who needs to prove himself over a longer period of time.

If Benteke was to leave for Spurs or anywhere else, Villa have 6ft 5in Nicklas Helenius waiting in the wings to partner Andreas Weimann up front next season. The Dane, signed from Aalborg this summer, is more of a ball player than Benteke despite his height, but is likely to play a similar role, that of a target man with Weimann running off him.

Overall Benteke’s transfer request represents a major blow for Villa and their supporters, after being a talismanic presence last season, crucial to keeping them in the Premier League, dominating defences. His performances in the win at Liverpool, and his hat-trick in the 6-1 victory over Sunderland showed him as one of the most promising young strikers in Europe. It now lies with the club to convince Benteke to remain at Villa Park.

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