In a broader sense all footballers’ days are of course numbered at any given club.
But, having signed for the grand sum of £32.5m just last summer, the future of Christian Benteke does seem to be simmering with uncertainty right now.
Liverpool’s hugely entertaining manager Jurgen Klopp moved to combat the Benteke doubters this week when he said:
“You are too quick in your judgements,”
“If I worked like this I would send players who miss chances to the next club or whatever. Stay cool. Of course he has a future, that is not a question.
“What we have to do is think what team fits together for the special game. For the next game it could be different.”
But the statistics would suggest that Benteke is indeed a peripheral associate of Klopp’s current footballing thoughts.
In the big games against Arsenal and Manchester United last week, Benteke was benched until the 66th and 81st minutes respectively.
The 25-year-old Belgium international last started a game against Exeter in a 2-2 draw in The FA Cup on January 8th that nearly became the shock of the round. In terms of profile Benteke stuck out like a sore thumb that evening, in a Liverpool team littered with youngsters. And, perhaps deprived of service, he hardly showered himself in glory against a team marooned in mid-table in League Two. That’s the fourth tier of English football.
The argument seems to centre on movement, or a lack of. Klopp appears to currently favour a highly mobile front line and chose Adam Lallana and James Milner either side of Roberto Firmino in Liverpool’s last outing against Manchester United at the weekend.
But, perversely, while Liverpool had the better chances and created more than their ailing opponent, The Reds seemed to lack a focal point in their attack against their bitter rivals. Someone to clinically insert the ball into the onion bag.
Benteke is a deft ball player for one whose head is so far from his feet. And his physical prowess gives him obvious advantages in a league which usually separates the men from the boys pretty quickly. He’s got a good goals to games ratio too. But, with the sacking of Brendan Rodgers, perhaps the Belgian international has found himself in the right place at the wrong time.
Perhaps Jurgen Klopp will successfully upskill Benteke given time. Or perhaps he would prefer the more mobile talents of Daniel Sturridge in attack, if only he could get the England international fit and firing on a weekly basis.
What Klopp does need to be mindful of is the emotional fragility of many a striker. Too much bench time and the player could irretrievably lose his confidence in front of goal. But a man-manager as good as the German will be careful to massage Benteke’s ego regularly. And what better place than the replay with Exeter for Benteke to get some feel good goals under his belt at Anfield in front of a howling and peerlessly faithful fanbase?
But, it’s a conundrum which shows no sign of being solved yet. And Benteke continues to regularly cut a lonely figure on the sidelines after what was supposed to be his big career move.
Club Career: 104 goals in 259 games
International Career: 6 goals in 24 caps for Belgium
Benteke at Liverpool: 7 goals in 24 appearances