While Christian Benteke has committed his immediate future to Aston Villa, fans of the club have to be wondering just how long the striker will remain content with life in the Midlands.
Signing from Genk in August 2012 for around £7 million, Benteke’s first season at Villa was a raving success, as his 19 goals in 34 league games helped the club fight off relegation, earning him numerous plaudits in the process.
However, with those plaudits unsurprisingly came speculation surrounding his future, with the 23-year-old even going as far as to submit a transfer request during the summer, in the face of reported interest from Tottenham Hotspur.
Benteke would withdraw the request a fortnight later but, going into the 2013-14 campaign, there was a growing sense that another solid season would put him back in the shop window for other big-spending Premier League sides to pounce.
It was somewhat of a morose blessing in disguise for Villa then that, after netting 10 times in 26 games, the Belgian would rupture his Achilles tendon in April, ruling him out for the rest of the season and the World Cup in Brazil, with the club still just managing to achieve Premier League survival.
That putting paid to a potential deal this summer, as Benteke bids to return to fitness, Paul Lambert appears to have kept hold of his prized marksman for at least the next few months, but his latest comments are far from a glowing endorsement for his long-term future with the team.
‘Speculation is speculation. It doesn’t mean it’s the truth. What I need to do is get back to playing well for Aston Villa,’ Benteke told The Sun.
‘And if some other club is interested in me they have to speak to the club, not just speak about me.'
‘Of course it’s nice to hear this club or that club wants you, but it means nothing.’
Unlikely to be back in time for the start of the season, Benteke’s recovery timetable is unclear at this point but there’s no doubt that, if his goalscoring form returns once back in the side, then transfer speculation will be sure to resurface, Newcastle United being one club already linked to his signature.
Villa’s undoubted talisman, the 17-times capped international is one of the few standout talents in a thin and inexperienced squad, with his eventual return vital to the club surviving a fourth successive relegation-threatened season.
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That would lead most to suggest that club officials should attempt to keep hold of him at all costs but, if want-away owner Randy Lerner is still searching for possible buyers at the time a potential bid comes in, then there are significant fears that a sizeable offer would be impossible for the financial-stricken side to turn down.
Having seen so many of the team’s top players depart over recent years, another leaving in similar circumstances would not please Villa supporters whatsoever, but it is a scenario that must be prepared for, regardless of how it affects the club’s long-term future.