The Aston Villa striker was ruled out of the World Cup after rupturing an achilles tendon in training but how does his international compatriot compare?
It was difficult to gauge just how detrimental the loss of Christian Benteke was to Aston Villa yesterday, as news filtered through of the ruptured achilles tendon which will rule him out of the remainder of the campaign but, perhaps most appositely, the World Cup this summer.
The fact Grant Holt and Nicklas Helenius, two largely marginalised strikers on the fringes of the Villa team, are now the two deputies on offer to manager Paul Lambert was punishment enough for Villa fans but, on the flip side, the Midlands outfit seem too far away from the drop zone to be sucked in at this late stage and the injury may ward off Benteke's list of admirers in the close season.
Not that Villa's fortunes for the rest of this absorbing Premier League season should be dismissed, but the narrative point on everyone's mind appeared to be just how the striker's injury would impact on Belgium.
The new European superforce, boasting the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Eden Hazard and Kevin Mirallas, are being tipped as many pundits' dark horses in Brazil this summer and Benteke was all set to be a key component in complying to the pressure placed upon the international team.
It appears difficult on first glance to decipher whether or not the chances of Lukaku replicating his club form will be hindered or facilitated by Benteke's absence.
Both, of course, play lone frontman roles for their respective club sides and the notion of a 4-4-2 in today's game is largely considered a primitive one.
Benteke was primarily preferred to his striking contemporary in the World Cup qualifying campaign but both players only managed two goals apiece during the group phase, with ex-Chelsea wideman Kevin de Bruyne top scoring with four.
But, while they were unlikely to form an 'SAS'-esque fearsome strike duo, having both in the 23-man squad would have liberated manager Marc Wilmots to rotate while still fielding a physical spearhead at the apex of the attack.
Lukaku has marginally upstaged his fellow striker domestically this season, scoring 12 goals to Benteke's 10 but the latter has had to operate in a Villa side who have scored 15 less than the Toffees with 34 against 49.
Indeed, only six sides have scored fewer this season in the top flight than Lambert's side, with Benteke registering nearly a third of their goalscoring output.
But who is the complete package of the duo and, ultimately, will Belgium miss Benteke's presence this summer?
Well, if the following statistics are anything to go by, then the evidence would suggest something quite the contrary, with Lukaku coming out largely on top.
Not only has the Everton man been able to profit from the talented band of playmakers behind him with three scoring attempts per game, he has also turned provider on a regular basis, as his 0.25 goal assists per appearance and 0.13 intentional assists underlines.
Benteke, meanwhile, pales by comparison. He has only attempted 2.58 efforts on goal per game while his figures of 0.08 and 0.04 show a gulf between the duo's attempts to link up play and tee others up.
It may hint at the struggles Villa face as a collective unit, but Benteke has also proven far from sharp enough in front of goal when handed the opportunities to show he is worth his salt.
He has hit the target with 1.08 of his shots on goal per game and has missed 0.54 big chances too, with Lukaku proving far more clinical in front of goal as 1.5 and 0.21 in the respective fields would attest.
Where Benteke does come into his own is in the latter statistics, where his physical presence has contributed to a 56.8% success rate in the air, winning 8.81 of his 15.5 aerial duels, while Lukaku has only managed to win 35.9% of his own 8.25 per appearance.
The Villa striker also prevails in terms of his touches per game, an area which subverts from the earlier idea that Lukaku is more involved in play but further suggests that he is far more useful with his touches.
Benteke posts 47.77 per outing while Lukaku comes in with 38.54.
Wilmots will certainly miss the height, power and explosive finishing of Benteke but for the all-rounder needed to breach various versatile defensive rearguards in Brazil this summer, Lukaku appears far more well-suited to dovetail with the likes of Hazard, Mirallas and De Bruyne.
|Player||Team||Pos||Goal Assist / apps||Goal Assist Intentional / apps||Total Scoring Att / apps||Ontarget Scoring Att / apps||Big Chance Missed / apps||Aerial Won / apps||Aerial Lost / apps||Touches / apps||Apps||Mins|
|Christian Benteke||Aston Villa||FW||0.08||0.04||2.58||1.08||0.54||8.81||6.69||47.77||26||2,128|