Is Aston Villa's Christian Benteke Ready for Europe's Top Clubs?
Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke will be hot property this summer whether his club are relegated or not.
Now his agent, Eris Kismet, is stirring the pot with talk of a transfer to Internazionale (via Sky Sports), and it begs the question: all these links to top clubs, is the man good enough?
There's no doubting the fact that Paul Lambert's £7 million signing has made a massive impact.
In the English Premier League, Benteke has 13 goals and four assists in 25 games. He netted four in the Capital One Cup this season too, taking his overall tally just three shy of the coveted 20-goal mark with eight fixtures to play.
Since the turn of the year he's been a force: scoring six goals over a five-game span, he's become the second-most prolific EPL striker in 2013 behind Luis Suarez.
He's added an element of consistency to his existing game, which is built on power, athleticism and finishing.
But when he arrived at Villa in August he was a very raw footballer.
On his debut against Swansea at Villa Park, he scored a memorable goal, chipping Michel Vorm, but five minutes previous had missed an absolute howler.
There was only one thing running through Villa fans' minds at that point: "Please do not be the next Emile Heskey."
He showed signs of progression over the next month, and it's arguable he was truly noticed during Villa's 3-2 home loss to Manchester United.
Racing one vs. one against Chris Smalling, he floored the central defender with ease and crossed for Andi Weimann to hit home. That was his emergence as a powerful, strong presence on the field.
In the space of six short months, he's rounded off into a wonderful player. He's stronger than every defender, aerially dominant (wins 8.5 contests per game) and has a long shot Paul Scholes would be proud of.
He's become a more composed finisher in the box, holds the ball up well and takes penalties like Mario Balotelli.
Perhaps the only thing holding him back at the moment, however, is his distribution.
He makes some bad decisions in possession and gives the ball away cheaply by trying the extraordinary. It's an issue that will be ironed out in time, but for now it's a big one when Villa are trying to build sustained pressure on the opposition.
That is, to be fair, the only issue in his game at the moment.
It's easy to see why he's attracting so much attention—opposition fans view him as a Belgian monster who will surely eat their defence alive; Martin Skrtel probably wakes up screaming in the middle of the night due to the events that occurred on December 15, 2012.
But before his agent rushes him off to a new destination, many will accept that Christian needs another season to stabilise.
The scrutiny at the top end of the table is heavier, and the mistakes he makes in his distribution will land him in hot water with another fanbase.
After just a single season, he's a breakout star, not a seasoned performer. If Aston Villa avoid the drop, the Belgian should spend one more season in Birmingham to iron out his last deficiency and reward the fans for their incredible support.
At the start of the 2014-15 season, Benteke will be ready to rock the likes of White Hart Lane and the San Siro.
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