Dominating Benteke Worth Every Penny...

You might wonder why Aston Villa could ask £25m-plus for a player with one year at the highest level. And then you look at his stats for winning balls in the air...

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Christian Benteke's decision to hand in a transfer request on Monday was a real blow to Aston Villa and their fans but it could hardly be considered a surprise. The big Belgian had all but forced former club Genk's hand to let him flee to the Midlands - though he wasn't aware that Lambert's men were based there at the time.

Villa went in with a bid of around £4m and the Jupiler Pro League club managed to get nearly double that by the time an agreement was reached. While there has been interest aplenty in Benteke, it is again his employers that hold all the cards if the 22-year old's future does lay away from Villa Park next season.

Some have placed a valuation between £20-30m on his head, though the fee that Villa demand is all-but certain to be at the upper end of that scale. It's led many to question whether a player who has had just one, albeit extremely fruitful, season at the top level could be worth such a price.

The simple fact is that while Benteke may not have earned such a price tag so early on in his career, he's worth that much to Aston Villa, who are a club that have no reason to sell. If the stories that White Hart Lane is his desired destination are true, despite the player proclaiming his love for Arsenal upon his move to Villa - with loyalty not seemingly a word that crops up in too many footballers' limited dictionaries - than one would predict a drawn-out series of negotiations.

Daniel Levy likes to drive a hard bargain, and why shouldn't he? He's doing the same with Bale right now. However, if Tottenham are to secure Benteke's services they need to act quickly, with Villa stating that any deal would need to be struck in an 'appropriate timeframe during pre-season'. That leads you to believe that if Benteke is still a Villa player in August, he will remain that way.

Villa's suits are schooled in getting good money for their prized assets - see £20m Stewart Downing - and this will be no different. Benteke was a revelation last season, and the stats from WhoScored.com back up Villa's lofty valuation.

The wantaway Villa forward is undoubtedly one of the top young strikers in Europe right now, and few players of his age could match his exploits last season. Of all forwards in Europe's top five leagues that were under the age of 23 when the Premier League season kicked off - with Benteke just 21 at the time - the Belgian was the top scorer with 19 goals.



Of players in the same age bracket, only four averaged more shots per game (3.06), though all of those (Mario Balotelli, Stevan Jovetic, Andre Schurrle and Daniel Sturridge) played for teams significantly higher up their respective leagues than Villa. In turn, of all the strikers in the aforementioned age group to start more than ten games, only six had a better conversion rate than Benteke (18.3%).

While a shot accuracy of 41.3% certainly could improve, when Benteke did hit the target, an impressive 44.2% of those efforts found the net - of the young strikers with at least ten goals last season, only Mauro Icardi and Luis Muriel had better figures.

However, it's not just Benteke's shooting statistics that impress. In terms of players starting the season under the age of 23 who played solely as a centre-forward last season, only Fiorentina's Jovetic picked up more key passes per game than the Belgium international's 1.56. His modest tally of four assists was at least partly attributable to some poor finishing from his Villa teammates.

It is, however, his aerial prowess and dominance over opposition defenders that makes him truly stand out from the crowd here. There were 63 players in that under-23 category to make an appearance as a striker in the top five leagues last season and Benteke's average of 7.91 aerial duels won per game was more than three times that of any of his competitors; his ability to hold up play is a major asset that will have appeased the powers that be at Spurs.

In short, there seems to be no other striker of his age quite like Benteke right now - as much as lazy comparisons to compatriot Romelu Lukaku are concerned, the two are really quite different.

You have to fork out for talent and potential, which the Villa man has an abundance, but if he is to play in the white of Spurs next season Daniel Levy will have to break from his own norms. A deal needs to be done quickly and, more importantly, it needs to suit Aston Villa.

Martin Laurence - follow him at https://twitter.com/martinlaurence7

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.

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