Friday 30 September 2016

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers to battle Man United for £30m Christian Benteke

Liverpool target Villa star to solve striker crisis – but Sherwood confident he will stay

Chris Bascombe

Published 27/05/2015 | 02:30

Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring their first goal during the FA Cup Semi Final between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium last month (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring their first goal during the FA Cup Semi Final between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium last month (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Liverpool will bid for Aston Villa's Christian Benteke after the FA Cup final as they seek an end to the striker crisis that has wrecked their season.

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Benteke, 24, is the Merseyside club's No 1 target this summer and they are ready to step up their interest in the Belgian international, who Villa rate at around £30million.

Manchester United are also believed to be monitoring Benteke's situation, as his signature looks to be one of the most sought after in the next transfer window.

Liverpool hope to get their summer business concluded as early as possible, avoiding the late scramble that led to the calamitous capture of Mario Balotelli last August.

Brendan Rodgers has been considering making a move for Benteke for a while.

The Liverpool manager contemplated a bid last summer, but with the centre-forward still recovering from serious injury it was deemed too risky as he would never have been ready for the Champions League campaign.

Devastating

It was a similar story in January, when Benteke had not shown any sign of rediscovering the devastating form that typified his first year in the Premier League. But since Tim Sherwood took over from Paul Lambert as Villa manager Benteke has been lethal.

Liverpool know to their cost what a match-winner he can be, as he terrorised their defence in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory.

Rodgers and Liverpool's recruitment staff decided weeks ago that the Villa man was the one to help revive their goalscoring threat next season. The club already have a relationship with Villa's head of recruitment, Paddy Reilly, who is a former Liverpool employee.

Sherwood is well aware of the interest in Benteke, but believes he can convince him to sign an extension to his £50,000-a-week deal - especially if Villa win the FA Cup on Saturday.

"Christian is only a young man but he's very mature in the way he behaves,"

Sherwood said. "I think he's handled the situation well. I have no reason to believe he wants to seek employment elsewhere. He seems to be very happy here. He knows there are big games coming up and I think he wants to be at this football club."

Benteke scored 12 goals in the last 12 matches of the season, with his team-mate Ashley Westwood saying he gives "sleepless nights" to opposition defenders.

Westwood said: "Christian is a real handful for anyone and I'm sure he does have that fear factor.

"I think he's back to full fitness now. He was struggling with his Achilles early on and people didn't see that, they just expected him to walk back in and fire in the goals.

"He's back to his best now, bullying defenders, and I'm sure they'll be having sleepless nights."

With Liverpool expecting to add James Milner and Danny Ings to the playing staff early in July, there is some hope the squad will be in place in time for pre-season.

Meanwhile, Liverpool have extended the contract of centre-half Kolo Toure, 34, by a season. Toure was expected to leave on a free transfer this summer.

The club have also rewarded Andre Wisdom with a four-year contract, until 2019. Wisdom spent last season on loan at West Bromwich Albion but he will be challenging for a place in Liverpool's much-maligned defence at the start of next season.

Toure moved to Liverpool from Manchester City on a short-term deal in 2013 and has held talks with several clubs this season. But Liverpool's lack of defensive options forced a rethink on whether to allow him to leave on a free transfer this July.

Matured

For Wisdom, the chance to establish himself at Anfield will come after two years away on loan.

He was introduced into the first team at the start of Rodgers's reign and, having played at Derby County and West Brom, he is expected to have sufficiently matured to compete for a regular starting role from pre-season.

Both deals were keenly sought by Rodgers, further demonstrating his confidence that he will still be in charge next season.

While Toure and Wisdom stay, Liverpool will be hoping to offload plenty of others. Fabio Borini and Jose Enrique have been informed they can leave, although it remains to be seen how easy it will be to sell them. The duo were also available last summer but rejected offers to join other Premier League clubs.

Brad Jones and Glen Johnson leave on free transfers, and an extended list of possible departures also includes Rickie Lambert, who has been unable to secure a starting place since his move from Southampton at the end of last season. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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