Tuesday 24 April 2018

Benteke struggles to escape Robbie Keane comparisons

Christian Benteke celebrates after scoring the winning goal for Liverpool against Leicester Photo: LINDSEY PARNABY / AFP / Getty Images
Christian Benteke celebrates after scoring the winning goal for Liverpool against Leicester Photo: LINDSEY PARNABY / AFP / Getty Images

Chris Bascombe

Christian Benteke is rivalling Liverpool's Main Stand development as the most expensive work in progress in Anfield history.

But for injuries to the club's other strikers - Daniel Sturridge, Danny Ings and now Divock Origi - it is unlikely that Benteke would have been in place to enjoy his most satisfying day in a Liverpool shirt.

The Belgian condemned Leicester to only their second league defeat of the season, yet it is in keeping with his career on Merseyside that the lingering image was of the striker's limitations as much as his strengths.

He earned a temperate "well done"' from his manager, while being served a reminder that goals are not enough.

"He is a goalscorer, no doubt," said Jurgen Klopp. "We all need his goals, but I don't only think about him and goals. We are not a team who can play with a striker who scores a goal but is not involved in the game for the other 89 minutes. We need the striker for the other options too, to work for the other minutes. He can do this."

There is something about Benteke that cannot stop you thinking about Robbie Keane. In the summer of 2008 Liverpool paid a fortune for the Irishman - a player who seemed perfect for the club when playing against them - yet the red jersey looked like an ill-fitting Christmas jumper.

Even when Keane scored, striking five times during his six-month spell on Merseyside, any praise from the manager was accompanied by the sound of gritted teeth. You knew Liverpool were waving the receipt in the hope they could offload immediately as was demonstrated when Keane returned to Spurs in January 2009 wondering what he had done wrong.

Ask Liverpool what they would do if anyone offered £32m for Benteke in January and you will hear about preposterous speculation, the need for patience, evolving the forward's game and the potential that can be unlocked. Yet with every fixture it is evident that although much was made about Klopp scouting the Belgian while he was Borussia Dortmund's coach, the more pertinent fact is that he never bid for him.

Klopp is in the education as much as coaching business when it comes to developing players, but Benteke seems an expensive trainee.

"When I came here, he was injured, and he's a big boy, so he needs to be fit," Klopp added. "He wasn't when I came. So this week, he did a really good week in training and is getting fitter and fitter, but we decided we wanted to go with what Origi would bring to the game for the formation.

"It was a close decision, it is how it should be. Christian came in, got a goal, it's good for him, good for us, a better situation than before. We had a really good talk in the week, he knows what he has to do, he came in had a really good game, decided the game."

Klopp had already made his point by omitting Benteke from his starting line-up, a decision wholly justified by the impressive Origi, whose terrorising of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth was ended only by a hamstring injury at the end of the first half.

Still, Benteke joined an exclusive club in inflicting a rare defeat on the league leaders when finishing Roberto Firmino's left-wing cross in the 64th minute.

A second should have been added before Leicester finally put pressure on Liverpool's defence, most notably when Benteke inexplicably refused to shoot early at an open goal in injury time.


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