On the eve of the biggest game in the playing career of Christian Benteke and managerial career of Tim Sherwood - Saturday's FA Cup Final against Arsenal at Wembley Stadium - the Aston Villa boss has been speaking about the subject that just won't go away.
Since Belgian striker Benteke hit the goals to save Villa from relegation from the Premier League, Sherwood has had to fend off questions over a possible move away from Villa Park for the 24-year-old.
This week Sherwood revealed a £32.5 million buy-out clause in Benteke's contract, and the fear among Villa fans is that Liverpool - who have been linked with a move by the Daily Star, among others - will make a bid to trigger that. However, in the build-up to the FA Cup final this weekend, Sherwood has plotted an alternative route for his 16-goal striker, which would see him aiming higher than Liverpool.
Speaking in The Guardian, Sherwood explained: “We’re building up to a European Championship (in 2016), which is a huge stage for Christian, and a tournament where you feel that Belgium will be one of the favourites to win it. By playing for Aston Villa it hasn’t hindered him being the first choice for Belgium up to now. If he were to stay here and score at the ratio that he has since I took over, and ends up with 20 or 30 goals next season and then has a good Euros, he is probably playing for Real Madrid (in 2016). Christian could go to the best club in the world if he scores 30 goals next season. He could be that good.”
It is certainly a compelling argument for Benteke to spend another campaign at Villa Park, if a dispiriting acknowledgement for fans of the Midlands club that the player cannot realise his ambitions at Aston Villa.
Sherwood also fired a warning to Benteke that the grass is not always greener, possibly referring to Rickie Lambert, who made the move to Anfield but featured mainly from the substitute's bench in the 2014/15 season, despite a striker shortage at the club.
"All he’s got to do is look at history," continued Sherwood "and see what has happened to players who have left other clubs. They’re going to pastures new, bigger and better clubs, and they don’t actually play, so then they end up looking for a new home again. Christian has made no indication that he wants to leave and I don’t think he should be moving clubs before a European Championship.”
For now, Sherwood will be keen to put the issue to bed and focus on the FA Cup final. If nothing else, the game will be the perfect shop window for Benteke. Villa have made it clear that only the release clause being triggered will see the player depart Villa Park this summer, and crucial goals in the cup final might just bring that likelihood closer.
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