Tottenham Hotspur badly need a quality striker, and Aston Villa's Christian Benteke is one of the hottest players in Europe at the moment. On paper, this matchup seems almost perfect. However, should Spurs be having second thoughts about the Belgian's character?
There are no two ways about it, Benteke was the Premier League signing of the season last term. The 22-year-old softly spoken Belgian international scored a phenomenal 19 goals in 34 EPL appearances. He battered defenses into submission and proved an absolute bargain at just £7 million.
Benteke's form for club and country, that saw him score 28 goals in 50 matches in all competitions, virtually guaranteed that bigger teams would be monitoring him closely over the summer.
Knowing this the striker alerted the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and specifically Arsenal on May 24, just five days after the end of his first Premier League campaign. In an interview that featured in the Sun Benteke was quoted as saying:
If Aston Villa say I must stay, I won’t necessarily accept that.
I do not in any way want to feel I didn’t get the most out of my career. I try to get everything
If the chance comes up for me to join a club like Arsenal, I’m convinced we can reach a compromise where everyone comes out a winner.
Speculation linking the striker with a move away from Villa Park began almost immediately. Arsenal, having been confirmed as longtime admirers by the Daily Mirror, were linked with a move for the star by John Cross, writing for the same paper.
This speculation came one day after Darren Lewis, again from the Daily Mirror, had Spurs leading the charge for the striker with a player-plus-cash deal.
Reacting to the transfer request and a blizzard of transfer rumours and speculation, Aston Villa then issued a statement. The club confirmed his transfer request and clarified why the Belgian had not joined his team in Germany for preseason training.
It also, tellingly, said:
Having received his transfer request, we have also informed him that should we receive an offer within an appropriate timeframe during pre-season which meets our valuation we would act upon it. But he will remain a Villa player should this not happen.
Looking at his past record, this transfer request should come as no surprise, and Villa should not be too disappointed.
Last August, Voetbalkrant (h/t Sky Sports) confirmed that the striker had gone missing from training with his Belgian club, Genk, following a rejected bid from Aston Villa. A few days later, he signed for the Birmingham-based club.
To some, these courses of action may show ambition and a one-track obsession with improvement and getting the most from a short career.
To others, it shows an untrustworthy player with a lack of integrity and character who is prepared to use the dark arts to force a transfer.
Most top clubs and managers have made an art-form of getting players to reveal their true characters during transfer negotiations. Quite often the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid or Barcelona are linked with players perhaps a year or two before they actually make an official move.
Think of Real Madrid's recent pursuit of Gareth Bale and their insistence they will return next season as a prime example of a big club placing a player under pressure to see how he will react.
If the player throws the baby out with the bath-water and goes to the press or puts in a transfer request, their interest wanes. If the player gets his head down and plays well despite the speculation, and all the pressures it brings, they monitor the player more closely.
This simple practice reveals the player's character in the truest sense. It shows a player who is intrinsically motivated. These are the key players to any squad and especially at clubs the size of United, Madrid or Barcelona.
United, under Sir Alex Ferguson, tended to sign intrinsically motivated and consistent players over flair. All the evidence you need is in last season's championship winning side.
There are players like Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Nemanja Vidic with massive reputations and egos. But no one can say that they are more interested in self indulgence on the pitch. If anything, they are more interested in self sacrifice for the cause and play in any style, position or system the manager asks.
Over the past couple of years Spurs have added players with similar attitudes.
Most people repeat their behaviour throughout their life, and this is also true of footballers. Within the past year, Benteke has tried to engineer two transfers from a parent club.
If a club like Spurs sign him, there is nothing to say that he will not try to force another move once the opportunity arises.
Given the current ambition of the club and the position they are in they might be better served by avoiding Benteke altogether.
Spurs are in the middle of building something special at White Hart Lane. They now possess one of the best training grounds in the world and are about to start building a new 60,000 capacity stadium. They have also appointed the highly respected Franco Baldini as technical director.
Andre Villas-Boas, a surprise instalment as manager last summer, has taken the club up a notch in terms of style, mentality and ambition. Gareth Bale has improved immensely as a player in just one year under his stewardship and was easily the best player in the Premier League last season. The Portuguese's recent rejection, according to the Guardian, of Paris Saint-Germain's overtures speak dividends of the current project at Spurs.
Add in Jan Vertonghen, recent signing Paulinho, Lewis Holtby, Mousa Dembele, Kyle Walker, Hugo Lloris and Sandro and Spurs have the backbone of a very good side.
A striker of Benteke's ability would almost definitely improve their chances of playing in the Champions League and perhaps even challenge for the title.
Spurs are not in the same position as United or Real Madrid and have not been since the early '60s. So therefore they might have to gamble on the Belgian 22-year-old and hope he wants to stay there to further their project.
Tottenham might lose Bale to Real Madrid next season, according to the London Evening Standard, especially if he avoids injury and enjoys another stellar year. Could they afford to gamble on a guy like Benteke?
Remember, next season is a World Cup year, and given Belgium's recent status as fifth favourites, Benteke could potentially have another monster season.
Looking at his history one could be forgiven for speculating that he could put in another transfer request to force a move to a bigger club.
Potentially losing a player like Bale would be bad enough but losing two key players would be criminal.
For that reason Spurs would be better served by signing a player with a good attitude who does not court the media or potential suitors. Unfortunately, they recently missed out on David Villa after the Spanish star chose to join Atletico Madrid.
Villa, a selfless pro, is exactly the kind of player Spurs need to elevate to the next level and stay there.
Is Christian Benteke in the same class? Is he worth the gamble?
In the short term, almost definitely. Long term, however, might prove different.
Statistics provided by the Premier League.
Is Christian Benteke the right player for Spurs?
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