Christian Benteke has a message for Tim Sherwood: I'll prove I am more than a target man
New Liverpool striker says he will make his mark
Christian Benteke, Liverpool’s £32.5million summer signing, has revealed how he challenged former manager Tim Sherwood over claims there was "no point" moving to Anfield.
Aston Villa coach Sherwood suggested Benteke’s strengths were not suited to Brendan Rodgers’ style because Liverpool do not cross the ball enough.
Benteke says he told his ex-manager he was wrong and he would show he is the perfect fit for Liverpool’s number nine shirt. As he prepares for his Liverpool debut at Stoke on Sunday, Benteke says he will show there is more to his game than aerial prowess.
The 24-year-old Belgian has also dismissed suggestions his goalscoring end to last season was due to Sherwood’s influence. Benteke says it was simply "good timing" the Villa manager took the job as the striker returned to full fitness.
In trying to convince Benteke to stay at Villa Park, Sherwood argued he was building a side to get the most out of the Belgian - suggesting that will not be the case on Merseyside.
“There’s no point going to a club where they don’t cross the ball,” Sherwood said before Benteke's transfer. “We cross more balls into the box than any other club in the league and Christian has said that he feeds off crosses.”
That has prompted a response from Benteke.
“I don’t believe that and I told him,” said Benteke. “I spoke with him and I explained to him the situation. I said football has changed and the football now is modern and I can adapt. It is not just about crossing.
"I can score normal goals, too. I told him I am not afraid about it. If Liverpool bought me, then they know how to use me. That is why I came here - to show I can play with my feet, too.”
Benteke is frustrated his form at the end of last season, when he scored eight goals in six games to steer Villa from relegation, has been credited to Sherwood’s man-management rather than his contribution.
“People don’t understand. It was a bit frustrating. It was like I had never been injured,” said Benteke.
“He (Sherwood) came in at a good time, at a time when I was getting fit and getting better, so it was like a good time for both of us. It was the right time for him and for me. Ok, he helped me a lot but I had been injured for a long time and I was getting back to what I could do.
"It was just a question of time. With Paul Lambert it was hard because I had just come back and had to help the team. We were struggling, and when Tim came I was feeling better than before.”
Liverpool’s lack of firepower was debilitating last season, and Benteke will be under immediate pressure to solve the most obvious problem in Rodgers’ line-up.
“I knew if I joined a big club I would have some pressure, so I am ready for this challenge,” said Benteke.
“The pressure will bring the best out of me. The money is high, but even if it was less when you join a big club there is pressure so I just have to deal with it.
“It is an honour to get this number (the number nine), but because I am a striker it is also normal to get it.
“I don’t want to be arrogant but since I came to England I proved I wasn’t a bad player. Now it is a different situation, a different pressure. It is the pressure to be at the top and with Villa it was the pressure of not to go down. I believe whatever level I play I will score. I believe I can produce the goals.”
Liverpool know how devastating Benteke can be, his performance in last season’s FA Cup semi-final one of several occasions he troubled Rodgers’ defence.
“I hope the Liverpool fans see the player who played against them,” he said. “I told them (Liverpool’s defenders) we won’t fight like we used to do - we will fight together. I want to get into the Champions League. I can help them do that.
“I am a player who came here to improve myself and to be bigger than before, I am not coming in here with the intention of being a hero to the fans. Of course, I would appreciate it if they love me but it is not my main goal. If I do well, then everyone will be happy. It is up to me.”
Few are predicting a Liverpool title bid this season. Having gone so close two years ago, there is little faith outside Anfield they will break back into the top four.
Benteke revealed at least one of his rivals – compatriot Eden Hazard – rates Liverpool’s chances of mounting a challenge.
“I have been in contact with Eden on text message. He is happy for me. He said now I have a chance to win and to beat him,” said Benteke. “I think we have a chance. We have a good squad. It is up to us now to show them.”