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Benteke worth big bucks to Villa

WhoScored's Martin Laurence believes Christian Benteke's statistics prove he is well worth the money Aston Villa want for the unhappy striker.

Last Updated: 11/07/13 at 10:56 Post Comment

Christian Benteke: Has asked to leave Aston Villa

Christian Benteke: Has asked to leave Aston Villa

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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.

After all, the big Belgian had all but forced former club Genk's hand to let him flee to the Midlands last summer - though he wasn't aware that Lambert's men were based there at the time.

Villa initially went in with a bid of around £4million but the Jupiler Pro League club managed to get nearly double that by the time an agreement was reached. Now, although 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 £20-30million on his head, and the fee that Villa demand is sure 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 in England 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 with no reason to sell.

If the stories that Tottenham 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 - then one would predict a drawn-out series of negotiations.

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy likes to drive a hard bargain, and why shouldn't he? He's doing the same with Gareth 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 £20million Stewart Downing - and this deal 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), and all of those (Mario Balotelli, Stevan Jovetic, Andre Schurrle and Daniel Sturridge) played for teams significantly higher up their respective leagues than Villa.

Furthermore, of all the strikers in the aforementioned age group to start more than 10 games, only six had a better conversion rate than Benteke (18.3%).

While a shot accuracy of 41.3% certainly could be improved, when Benteke did hit the target, an impressive 44.2% of those efforts found the net - of the young strikers with at least 10 goals last season, only Mauro Icardi and Luis Muriel boasted a better figure.

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, only Fiorentina's Jovetic registered 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 team-mates.

It is, however, his aerial prowess and dominance over opposition defenders that makes Benteke truly stand out from the crowd.

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 - altough he is often compared to compatriot Romelu Lukaku, 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 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.

You can find Martin on Twitter @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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