Darren Bent to Fulham: Why Aston Villa Striker's Loan Is a Win-Win for Everyone
It's a transfer everyone expected to happen much earlier in the summer, given the clear-cut nature of the deal—that being Bent's unwanted status at Villa and his desperation to leave the club in search of first-team football.
Villa fans will be disappointed that it's only a loan deal and that the club were unable to recoup a portion of the money they paid for him in January 2012 (barring the expected loan fee), but the fact remains that this deal—loan or permanent—had to happen.
Much has been made of the club's extraordinary wage bill, which serves as a sobering reminder of the Martin O'Neill era.
Even Alex McLeish, brought in to stabilise and protect the club's financial fortunes, spent large sums on Alan Hutton, Shay Given and Jermaine Jenas. Awarding 35-year-old goalkeeper Given a five-year deal worth £50,000-per-week is hardly sensible, is it?
Paul Lambert is the first to truly exercise due diligence and care over the bill, and that's borne directly from sourcing foreign imports and raiding lesser leagues such as the Eredivisie, the Ekstraklasa and the Superliga.
It's astonishing to think that, for the equivalent value of Richard Dunne's reported £55,000-per-week wage packet, Lambert has squeezed the earnings of Jores Okore, Antonio Luna, Nicklas Helenius and Aleksandar Tonev onto the bill.
Bent's speculated earnings eclipse those of anyone else at Villa Park, hovering around the £70,000-per-week mark, and the club simply cannot afford to let someone who doesn't fit the philosophy rake that in.
There's no doubt that the Englishman played a colossal role in saving the club from relegation in 2011—and near-incomprehensible financial peril—and the fans will forever be grateful for this.
National media headlines suggesting Villa face a gargantuan loss on the player they signed for £24 million are not viewed with kindness. How much would Villa have lost had he not saved them from the dreaded drop?
But financial considerations are just one side of the coin. Villa have other, more imperative reasons to move Bent on to pastures new.
Right from the start, it became clear that Bent wasn't a Lambert-style player.
Both tactically and statistically, the England international just wasn't the right player for Aston Villa last season, with Lambert clearly preferring a complete forward up front that can contribute to the buildup play and "grab hold of a game."
Even if Christian Benteke had left the club this summer, Bent would not have been given a look-in. Lambert brought Helenius in this summer as a backup, and he looks another all-encompassing, complete forward—the polar opposite of Bent.
The former Sunderland hitman is a quality finisher, but as with every player, if the system doesn't suit you, you're not going to look good. Villa's tactics are predicated on a complete forward marshaling the play from the front, and Bent is not able to do that.
At 29 years of age, he's not going to undertake any radical reforms to his game, either.
Martin Jol knows how to use him, and the fact that he's willing to sanction a deal that sees his club paying the lion's share of Bent's £70,000-per-week wage suggests he values him as a starter.
It'll be a brighter season for both parties as they part ways: Fulham gain a quality poacher, Villa save millions of pounds and leave themselves no shorter in attacking options.
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