Liverpool boss risking an eggy face where Benteke is concerned
In Jurgen Klopp’s defence, he didn’t ratify Christian Benteke’s Liverpool move, but the German manager won’t want his handling of the big Belgian to haunt him down the line.
A public dressing down on the St Mary’s turf was just the latest example of Klopp’s apparent contempt for the £32m striker, after Benteke spurned a glorious chance to seal three points in a game Southampton duly went on to win 3-2.
If that ear bashing was an excusable by-product of an emotionally intense finale to a crucial match, Benteke’s place in the Anfield pecking order better outlines the fractious nature of the relationship.
On signing for the Reds Benteke must have accepted that playing second fiddle to, or at least rotating with, a fit Daniel Sturridge was on the horizon.
However, being relegated to fourth choice centre-forward and subsequently sitting out 120 minutes of a major final surely wasn’t a scenario he would have contemplated – though that’s become reality.
A modest, if acceptable first-season tally of six Premier League goals up to the new year has only been added to once in 2016 (a debatable, self-won penalty in the dying seconds against Crystal Palace three games ago), as starts have dried up like a Saharan watering hole in high summer.
The way things are transpiring between player and manager it would now represent a shock if Benteke were still at Anfield following the inevitable remodelling process that’s on the cards.
There is certainly a case to be made that this is folly from a man whose methods have escaped scrutiny since he breezed into English football in October.
Klopp only has to look at Sturridge to see a shining example of a player (when fit admittedly) who has shown his previous employers that they were wrong to underestimate his abilities.
The former Chelsea man boasts an incredible conversion rate for Liverpool, better than a goal every two games, but Benteke has also shown he is capable when his tail is up.
Brendan Rodgers and co forked out on the Villa striker precisely because of his own impressive strike rate; a smidgen shy of a goal every two Premier League games.
The football-sphere is littered with examples of players whose face didn’t fit the frame for whatever reason, yet went on to have the last laugh.
Everton’s Romelu Lukaku is the current poster boy in striker terms, while the likes of Danny Welbeck and Benik Afobe are also in that category in the English top flight, if to a lesser extent.
Perhaps the 25-year-old simply doesn’t check out where Klopp’s preferred system is concerned.
If he is let go, though, it’s not difficult to envisage Benteke becoming a hit somewhere else, where he’s given the necessary assurances to flourish.
At the very least, the Belgian hasn’t been given a fair crack of the whip to prove to Klopp that his assertions are wrong.
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