BIRMINGHAM: Paul Lambert has landed the most important signing of the summer by persuading Belgium striker Christian Benteke to stay with at Aston Villa.
Benteke, 22, made an impressive statement last season by top-scoring for Villa with 23 Premier League goals after arriving from Genk for only £7m. Those goals made the difference between Villa staying in the league or being relegated.
Several London clubs were linked with the player after he told manager Lambert that he wanted to move. But Villa’s insistence on a minimum £25m cash intimidated prospective purchasers and the only serious bid was a player-plus-cash offer from Tottenham.
Lambert has now persuaded Benteke to withdraw his transfer request and he signed a new four-year contract on Friday.
“I knew what was going on from day one,” said Lambert. “All the speculation is never nice. I had a good chat with him and he’ll be a massive player for us. The fans can’t wait to see him back again, which is great.”
Benteke has doubled his wages from £28,000 a week to £56,000. He said: “I am very happy to be back here at Villa because this is a great club which has given me a lot.”
The new contract ties Benteke to Villa until 2017 but which is only one year more than the deal it replaces. If nothing else the agreement ensures that Benteke will maintain his transfer value should Villa make little more progress up to league in the coming season.
One striker who is not expected to stay put is Wayne Rooney. Chelsea had a first offer for the Manchester United striker rejected last week and are now considering increasing it to a ‘serious’ £40m.
United manager David Moyes has continued to insist the player is not for sale and believes he can convince Rooney to stay. However Rooney’s reluctance is fuelled by the fact that retired manager Sir Alex Ferguson remains at Old Trafford as a director.