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Christian Benteke: Scout Report

Christian Benteke

Christian Benteke

Football is the most popular sport in Belgium since the 19th century. Belgium have had a reputation for the physical style of football, having produced great defenders over the past years. Eric Gerets, Vincent Kompany & Thomas Vermaalen just few important names who have been part of the Belgium defence. At the present day, Jupiler League can be a great step for every young player in the World. Yaya Toure, Dante, Demba Ba and Jan Koller have all played for Belgian clubs and now some of them are playing at the top level. Over the past few years, Belgian football has managed to produce technically better players like Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke.

Profile

Christian Benteke was born in the capital city of Zaire (now known as DR of Congo), Kinhasa on 3rd December 1990. He moved to Belgium with his family when he was a little boy, as a result of unrest in his country. Beneteke moved around a lot even before signing a professional contract. He started to play football at the youth ranks of JS Pierreuse, moving to Standard Liege in 2004 where he spent 2 years before joining Genk.

Benteke made his professional debut at the tender age of 16, making 10 appearances for Genk between 2007 and 2009. He moved back to Standard Liege, still in his teenage years. Despite making only 8 appearances, Benteke managed to score 3 times, showcasing his ability in front of goal. Standard coaches realised his need to play regularly and quickly loaned him out to Belgian club, Kortrijk who famously had a striker partnership of the Mpenza brothers. It was here that Benteke was given the opportunity to showcase his abilities, scoring 16 goals in 38 games, in all competitions. He returned to Liege, but failed to stamp down a starting berth and was again loaned out, this time to KV Mechelen. A decent return of 7 goals in 20 games followed; more worryingly though, Benteke let his temperament get the better of him as he received 2 red cards in his loan spell at Mechelen. He returned to Liege for a 3rd time (4th including his youth football), but again failed to convince the management in his 4 games there.

It was only on his return to Genk that Benteke truly cemented his place in professional football. He was a regular starter in Mario Been’s side, making 38 appearances in all competitions, and scoring 19 goals during that time. His first goal came against Lokeren in a 3-1 defeat; Benteke scored after 10 minutes, and was sent off 2 minutes before half-time. A perfect summation of his character. His exploits with Genk attracted interest from other European leagues, with Premier League side Aston Villa securing a  £7 million deal.

Christian Benteke scored on his debut for the club in Villa’s victory over Swansea. He went onto score a total of 24 goals in his first season in England, including three braces and the first-hattrick of his career. It wouldn’t be a Benteke season without controversy, having given Villa the lead at home to Chelsea after just 14 minutes, he was sent-off 14 minutes after half-time. 68 goals is a good return for a 22-year-old, but 3 red cards to go with it is the downside of Christian Benteke.

Benteke has played 37 times for Belgian youth teams, scoring 24 goals. His senior debut came in a 1-0 defeat to Germany at home; the 22-year-old scored for his country against Serbia in a 3-0 victory this past season, also scoring 4 days later in a victory over Scotland in the World Cup qualifiers.

Style, Strengths & Weaknesses

What do you expect from a striker? If you have Benteke in your team you can get pretty much everything you expect. His harmony of both the physical and technical style of football makes him a marvelous choice to be your main striker. Benteke can be played in different variations in the attacking third, but through the middle as a centre forward is his best suiting.

Something that I have noticed in Benteke’s play is the calmness & composure he displays inside the box, when most young strikers would let their nerves get the better of them. We saw it against Norwich, Holland and many other teams. At such an early age, it’s an important characteristic. He doesn’t hurry, he makes his move and generally a decent finish follows.

A good finisher, with an excellent heading ability, Christian Benteke is your perfect centre-forward. He’s a strong player and knows how to use his strength to open up spaces for his teammates or protect the ball. He utilises his strength to hold up the ball, allowing his team-mates to advance forward before picking out an attacking pass. We saw against Liverpool at Anfield that he has good long shots and he demonstrated how he protects the ball against defenders. His aerial ability and height are the main parts of his game style, making him a prime target for crosses; this also enhances his ability to be used as a traditional number 9. He lets his team use the wings more often and efficiently. He showed his aerial ability this past season scoring with two great headers against Everton and Sunderland (he scored a brace and a hat-trick in those games respectively). Also, he has adequate talent with the ball at his feet and is areal threat inside the box. He usually keeps himself available and it predominantly gives midfielders a chance to play him a through ball in every attack. He can spread the ball to his teammates when he plays as a target man, especially for wingers and attacking midfielders.

What I have observed about his game, when he has the ball at his feet inside the box, his first touch is crucial. If he can make a decent first touch, usually he manages to get a shot off. He has managed to combine the physical and technical part of the game to use to his advantage against defenders. This characteristic of his has been a trouble for the opponents last season.

We can consider his forward runs as one of his weaknesses. He is a bit slow in terms of speed and can’t make a decisive final decision on his forward runs. Acceleration, speed and agility are his apparent physical weaknesses. After this stage of his career, it is hard to improve these factors as his core football values have already set in.

Defensive contribution of Benteke is limited, while he also needs to improve his work-rate in the defensive part of the game. Despite winning 89% (16/18) of his duels, he doesn’t have enough contribution. He wins a decent amount of headers but when you compare his stats to Peter Crouch & Andy Carroll, it gives you a different picture. Their average headed duels won is 65% while Benteke’s is a mere 57%. He has the willingness to defend for his team, but sometimes he may lose his defensive position on the field and can’t press effectively. Some coaches say “you can’t learn to press, you need to feel it”, maybe it is true but you can work on it to improve and he needs to do extra work on pressing in training.

His discipline, as already mentioned, is another weakness that could restrict his game time and put off potential suitors.

Quotes

“He’s been fabulous. He has a big, big career in front of him. For a lad of 22 he has played a lot of high-pressure games for club and country. The crowd here love him and I can’t speak highly enough of him. As long as he keeps his feet on the ground he can have a big career.”

Paul Lambert, Aston Villa manager, quoted by BBC.

“He is still young, and I’d describe him as an ‘English’ kind of striker – good in the air, timing his jumps well, strong and improving technically. I think he’ll only keep improving, and I am really happy for him.”

Thomas Vermealen, Belgian national team-mate, quoted by Villa’s official site.

“He scares opponents. You can see that in games. When Brad Guzan kicks a long ball a lot of time they don’t even bother challenging him because he’s so strong so he takes it on his chest.”

Ron Vlaar, Aston Villa team-mate, quote by Daily Mail.

Transfer Situation

After such an amazing season at Aston Villa, there are lots of rumors about his future at the club. Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Dortmund, Fiorentina, Arsenal and Atletico Madrid have all been linked with him. It’s hard to say if he is going to stay at Aston Villa, given his track record of moving around, it wouldn’t surprise me if he does indeed secure a move elsewhere.

According to rumors, Villa are ready to open talks with Christian Benteke to secure his place at the club with £20,000-a-week pay rise, but if a serious offer comes from top clubs, it will be hard to keep him at Aston Villa.

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Mert Conker

Mert Conker

Merk Conker is an author at Outside of the Boot as well as a contributor to Turkish websitewww.yarisaha.com. He is a huge fan of English football, specially Liverpool.
Mert Conker

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