The Belgian striker's impressive form of late has ramped up rumours of a possible summer departure.
Speculation surrounding Christian Benteke’s future is nothing new at this stage but, with all the rumours circulating, there is a growing sense that Aston Villa will struggle to keep hold of their star man this summer.
Having returned to top form under Tim Sherwood, scoring 12 times in the past 11 matches, the Belgian striker’s name is now back in the headlines and linked with a whole host of major clubs.
Amid reported interest from Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Roma [h/t Daily Mail], The Sun have even claimed that the in-form front man is set to force through a £30 million transfer to Anfield, which would double his wages to £100,000-per-week.
With Sherwood also stressing in recent weeks that he won’t keep an unsettled Benteke at the club, this summer could well see them searching for his successor.
Of course, Benteke’s goalscoring impact will prove almost impossible for a club like Villa to replace - with the following list making for somewhat ominous reading - but here are five strikers who the team could look to in their bid to fill the void left by his potential departure.
Emmanuel Adebayor (Tottenham Hotspur)
Adebayor has had a tough time of late, making just one start and three substitute appearances in 2015, but if there’s one person who can get him back firing again, it’s Sherwood.
The Togolese striker bagged 14 goals in 24 games under the then-Spurs manager over the second half of last season and would no doubt relish the chance to join up with him again at Villa Park.
He is expected to available for a cut-price fee this summer and, while Villa would need him to agree to lower his £100,000-per-week wages, few other goalscorers on the market can match his Premier League track record.
Charlie Austin (Queens Park Rangers)
With QPR heading back to the Championship, Austin looks set to be on the move this summer, following a campaign which has seen him bag 17 goals in 34 league games and earn support for an England call-up.
The Daily Star have even reported that Sherwood is preparing a £15 million bid but, with the likes of Newcastle United also claimed to be circling, there could well be a battle for his signature.
Darren Bent (Aston Villa)
Bent saw his relationship with former Villa manager Paul Lambert derail his claret and blue career but the former England striker proved during his latest loan spell at Derby County that he can still finish, scoring 12 times in 17 Championship appearances.
The soon-to-be free agent worked with Sherwood for a brief period at White Hart Lane and his old coach has gone as far as to suggest that he is keen to bring him back to the Midlands for next season.
Speaking to Villa’s official website earlier this month, Sherwood said: "He's a good lad. If you look at his goalscoring record it is right up there with anyone. He respects the fact we treat him like a man.
"He knows our style of management. It's not them and us. They have to realise I'm the boss but in the end I treat him like a man and be honest.
"He's certainly someone who will be considered. The door is not shut on him certainly.
"He knows me and he knows he will get chances to score goals.”
Rudy Gestede (Blackburn Rovers)
Blackburn somehow managed to hold on to Gestede in the winter transfer window but, after grabbing an impressive 20 goals in 39 league games this past season, the club are set to face another fight to keep hold of him.
Villa are one of the clubs said to be after the £7 million-rated Benin international [h/t Daily Mail], who might just be the most feared aerial threat outside the top-flight, winning 135 more headers this term than his nearest Championship rival.
|Position||Team||Goals||Aerial Duels Won||Aerial Duel Success||Appearances||Mins Played|
|Alex Revell||FW||Cardiff / Rotherham||6||224||51.38%||40||2,426|
|Sean Morrison||DF||Cardiff / Reading||7||221||65.77%||42||3,779|
|Atdhe Nuhiu||FW||Sheff Wed||8||209||46.04%||43||2,975|
It’s far from guaranteed that he would be able to handle the step up to the top-flight but, if Sherwood is after a replacement in the exact same mould as Benteke, then he could do a lot worse than look to the towering Rovers star.
Andre-Pierre Gignac (Marseille)
Gignac has been linked with a move to the Premier League for some time now but next season could be when he we finally see him on British shores.
The France international, 29, is set to be out of contract this summer and has reiterated throughout the campaign that he has no plans to renew.
Several English clubs have been named as potential destinations, with West Bromwich Albion the latest added to the list [h/t Daily Mail], but if Villa have ambitions to get back to competing for Europe then the 19-times capped forward is the kind of marksman who should be on their radar.
As Ligue 1’s second-highest scorer this term with 21 goals, there will be strong competition for his signature but he might just be the best chance the club have of replacing Benteke’s impact.