Excusing his stints at Liverpool and Crystal Palace, there’s no doubting that the big Belgian forward was a colossus for the Villains.
Nowadays, Aston Villa have their own fair share of top-drawer strikers to enjoy, though there once was a time where Christian Benteke was ascending through the ranks to quickly becoming one of their best!
Somewhat fortunately for the big Belgian around this time, there was another big Belgian on the opposite side of the West Midlands to take much of the attention away from his time at Villa Park – hence allowing his forthcoming impact at the club to escape any unnecessary pressure put forth by the media.
And while the ‘other one’ in Romelu Lukaku was certainly cooking up a storm for West Bromwich Albion, the Aston Villa faithful needn’t look on in envy, for Christian Benteke was on hand to remove the FOMO of having missed out on signing Lukaku on loan for themselves. Leave alone that Benteke was arguable more well-rounded than Romelu at the time …
— and has officially signed full-time terms with them for just £7 million.
Standing at 6′ 3″ (1.9m) tall and arriving with a pedigree of scoring a goal every other game back home in Genk, there was some scepticism about whether or not Benteke possessed the minerals required to continue that rich vein of form in the rough-and-ready Premier League – especially given that the Belgian Jupiler Pro League (First Division) wasn’t exactly renowned for breeding top-level global players right from their ranks to England without at least stopping off at some other development centre first.
But unlike with the stories of Thorgan Hazard or Kevin de Bruyne, Christian Benteke took to the more physical league with aplomb – especially when you consider that manager Paul Lambert, seemed hell-bent on ensuring that his Aston Villa side played to the strengths of their new recruit.
“In his first year at Villa he was only behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in terms of goal-scoring ratio, which was an incredible achievement.”Paul Lambert
on Christian Benteke’s impact at Aston Villa
Without completely raining on Aston Villa’s parade, it’s fair to say that they didn’t possess much near the quality that their current squad benefits from. In fact, having only lost the likes of James Milner and Ashley Young in the seasons prior, their squad around this time looked like a huge fall from where they once were. But luckily for them, their regular set-piece specialists in Barry Bannan, Matthew Lowton, Karim El Ahmadi and co. were at the club just in time to maximise the qualities of Christian Benteke – which ended up saving them from successive relegation battles in the years to come, and award him a ‘Cult Hero’ status at the club which still remains.
Without him there, I think it’s clear that the club wouldn’t have been able to retain their Premier League status. When he was in the squad, you always had the sense that the team around him had the courage to carve out at least one more opportunity to get some points on the board, namely because they could rely on his efficiency to get them out of trouble when needed. 42 goals in 89 Aston Villa appearances across all competitions highlights the immense quality he brought to the Villains at that stage.
Never mind his link-up play, intelligent runs in the channels, physicality against defences and self-less work rate to earn possession back – all of which buoyed up his colleagues in their regular battles in the league, and endeared Benteke to the Villa fans in attendance.
Since rising from the crop, much has been made of Benteke’s eventual big-money moves to Liverpool and Crystal Palace over the last five years, and a lot of the media attention which has followed him (as well as a change in squad status and team system) has almost resigned his time at Aston Villa purely to one’s memory. But at Ultra United (‘UltraUTD’), we’re all about reliving these memories and respecting those who provided them.
And in the eyes of Aston Villa ultras everywhere, Christian Benteke must surely rank highly amongst their most beloved players over the past decade.