Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has ruled out Christian Benteke leaving the club in the New Year, insisting that the Belgian striker will honour his contract.
Benteke, 24, helped end the club's nine-game winless run on Tuesday night with the only goal in a 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace, after returning to the side following his three-match suspension for a straight red against Tottenham Hotspur last month.
Having made just five first-team appearances since coming back in October from a ruptured Achilles tendon, the imposing front man is still getting up to speed, but Lambert believes it won’t be long before he is back to his best.
“I think he can still do better,” he told Sky Sports News HQ. “I thought his game wasn’t even at the heights it was against Tottenham.
“His goal was fantastic. It’s good to have him back with his presence, but I still think there’s so much more to give.
“If Christian’s on his game and can perform on the level he can perform then he gives you that real presence up top.”
Having netted 35 times in 72 total appearances since arriving from Genk in August 2012 for £7 million, Benteke has continued to be linked with a move elsewhere while Villa struggle at the bottom of the table.
Lambert has made it clear, however, that his star man is not for sale, adding: “There’s no point because he’s got a contract and he’s just signed another one not long ago.
“He won’t be going anywhere.”
Villa go into Sunday’s home match against Leicester City having recorded just seven goals, 131 shots and 49 shots on target so far this season – all league-worst figures – but Benteke’s regular presence in the line-up should ensure that those numbers soon rise.