Losing 1-0 after 80 minutes of a cup final, the normal move for a manager is to bring on your most dangerous goal threat from the bench. This was a dilemma that faced Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on Sunday in the Capital One Cup final against Manchester City. The German turned to 20-year-old Divock Origi, ignoring the presence of £32.5 million signing Christian Benteke, whose latest setback may signal the time is right for the Belgian to leave the Reds.
In the summer, Benteke was Liverpool’s marquee signing. With the likes of Rickie Lambert, Raheem Sterling and Mario Balotelli among the attacking players leaving, it was the general consensus around the club that they needed to spend big on a new front man.
The Belgian’s late season run of form at Aston Villa had led to him scoring 13 Premier League goals in the 2014/15 season, but it was still a surprise that Liverpool met his £32.5 million release clause to bring him to Anfield. Many believed that he was not among the Reds’ main transfer targets, and only moved to Merseyside once the club fail to sign their top targets.
Since Klopp became Liverpool manager in October, Benteke has completed 90 minutes just four times in the league, the same amount as starts in the FA Cup, where the German has tends to use his fringe players more. He is at best the third choice striker under the charismatic manager, with Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi certainly ahead of him in the pecking order, while attacking midfielder Roberto Firmino regularly starting up front in the pair’s absence.
Liverpool’s style of play is something that doesn’t suit the 25-year-old. Firmino and Phillipe Coutinho are the men often deployed behind the striker, and they like to come inside and play fast, intricate passes to get it behind the defence, which isn’t Benteke’s game.
At Villa, he thrived up front feeding on balls into the box from Villa’s wingers. Jordan Ibe is the only natural wide man in the Liverpool squad, and he isn’t a regular in the side. Benteke proved with his brilliant header against Southampton that he can bring this aspect of his game to Anfield, but only if he gets the service.
With it looking unlikely that Klopp will change his playing style to suit Benteke, he may have to leave the five-time European Cup winners to get the game time his talent deserves.