Throwback Thursday: Christian Benteke – a victim of circumstance in his short Liverpool career

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By James Crump – @TheJamesCrump

Today we jump back four years to the signing of Christian Benteke from Aston Villa.

The Belgian was only at Liverpool for one season and is part of a group of signings who were the antithesis of the recruits signed since Jurgen Klopp took the reins.

Benteke was the third Liverpool striker in three years to be bought and moved on a year later, with Mario Balotelli and Iago Aspas facing a similar fate the years previous.

In the latter stages of his stint as manager, it became clear that Brendan Rodgers had no idea who he wanted to lead his line. His team had gone from mobility and guile in the form of Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge to target men lacking pace with Benteke and Balotelli.

This was the final transfer window Rodgers oversaw as Liverpool manager as his new arrivals failed to lift the team out of its 2014/15 slumber with James Milner and Nathaniel Clyne being the only impressive additions by the time Rodgers left.

Rodgers was sacked on October 4th, 2015, and a week later Klopp took charge. It became clear that the talented but incompatible Benteke was wrong for the German’s style, leaving him with one player who didn’t fit and one who was never fit.

This fate was unfortunate for the talented Daniel Sturridge, but it left Klopp with a conundrum. Luckily Roberto Firmino, a player utilised poorly by Rodgers became the new false-nine for Liverpool.

Three years later and the Brazilian is still leading the line for the team by doing anything but. Firmino is not the typical centre forward and instead drifts throughout the forward line, creating space for the explosive Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah to run in behind and steal the headlines.

Despite the improvisational aspect to Firmino’s change of position, the signings that have followed have been tailor-made for a relentless, trophy-winning team. While the front three work in perfect harmony, the midfield additions of Gini Wjinaldum, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Fabinho all play a specific role for the team.

No player was bought because of name recognition, with each playing a unique and crucial role in the system.

Roberston was recruited in a similar mould, one that is miles away from the recruitment pre-Klopp. Bought for £8million from a relegated Hull, Robertson failed to ignite excitement when bought in the summer of 2017, but has gone on to become a fan-favourite and a consistently excellent left-back.

Whilst big money used to be spent on a few promising players with decent stats, when Liverpool spend big now they spend it on a player that will fulfil a specific role. Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker were bought for eye watering figures, but have proven themselves to be the best in the league in their positions.

There is no longer a sense that Liverpool buy players through panic or fear, but instead a feeling that Liverpool no exactly who they want, and wait until they can get him. This is a stark contrast to where the club was at four years ago.

Benteke was not a failure at Liverpool, and racked up nine goals in 29 league games in his only season at Anfield. He never fit the profile of a Klopp player and is a buy that summed up Liverpool recruitment at the time – all surface, no substance.

As it stands, Liverpool haven’t bought a player above the age of 17 in the 2019 summer transfer window. Understandably fans are getting concerned, anxious for the team to kick-on and claim the Premier League crown.

It’s unclear whether Liverpool will buy someone this transfer window, but what is clear is that there won’t be a mistake like Benteke again. In the four years since his signing, Liverpool have barely made a misstep in the transfer market, with each player tailor made for the Klopp project.

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