Christian Benteke – A No-Win Situation?

This summer Palace have to make a very important decision about their Belgium striker

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Christian Benteke is a problem Crystal Palace must solve this summer.

So with his contract is set to expire in 12 months time what should the club do with the problem that is Christian Benteke?

An expensive failure

On 20 August 2016, Crystal Palace completed the signing of Benteke on a four-year deal for a fee of £27m which could rise by a further £5m, bringing the total fee to £32m.

During his three years at Palace, Benteke has the following record:

  • 2016/17 – 36 appearances, scoring 15 goals.
  • 2017/18 – 30 appearances, scoring 3 goals.
  • 2018/19 – 16 appearances, scoring 1 goal.

That equates to £1.5m per goal (£1.7m if his clause is triggered) making him the worst striker we’ve ever bought. Never has a striker cost us more money per goals

If you compare Benteke’s record against other strikers which have been considered ‘flops’ such as Marco Gabbiadini who cost Palace £1.8m and scored 5 goals. They don’t compare.

Sure, in Benteke’s defence his fee is the thing that weighs against him compared to any other Palace striker but even so, Benteke’s goals have cost a lot of money compared to other strikers.

What options do we have?

We have three options open to us this summer.

  1. Offer Benteke a new contract on the same or improved terms.
  2. Try to sell Benteke this summer taking a substantial loss.
  3. Let Benteke run his contract down and let him leave on a free transfer at a massive loss.

Let’s look at these options more closely.

Offer Benteke a new contract

Benteke is rumoured to be earning in excess of £100,000 a week, some say it is actually £120,000.

If a new contract is offered to Benteke he is extremely unlikely to accept a contract lower than his current deal for a number of reasons.

  • At 28 this is his last chance at a big pay day.
  • The Premier League TV deal has increased since he joined the club, inflating wages.
  • He has all the power if he let’s his contract run down (more about this later on).

I would expect any offer equal or less than what he is earning now would be rejected. It would make no sense for him to accept less as he has no particular affinity with the club.

For the club’s part, it wouldn’t make any sense to offer him more money than he is currently on because he has not shown he is worth the money he currently receives.

The only way we would offer him more money would be to do what the club did with Dwight Gayle, tie him down to a contract in order to boost his value to sell him.

As Benteke isn’t a sought after commodity, his style of striker is out of fashion in the top tier of English football, this would make no sense and would backfire on us.

Try to sell Benteke this summer

Trying to sell Benteke this summer would mean taking a huge loss on him. No club would pay anywhere near the £27m Palace paid for his services from Liverpool. Not when a club can wait 12 months and sign him on a free transfer.

What other club would want to sign Benteke? It has been muted that his former club Aston Villa would be interested should they be promoted but even if this were true who would pay a decent fee for him and match or better his wages?

I would estimate we would be lucky to get £10m for Benteke if we sold him this summer and even then I think the player would only leave if he was offered a big deal for the reasons in the next section.

Let Benteke’s contract run down

Letting Benteke’s contract expire would see the club take an even bigger loss but, let’s be honest, the ball is firmly in the player’s court.

I believe Benteke will not want to sign a new contract or move to another club this summer because if he lets his contract run down then next summer he would be able to move to any club he chooses for free.

Moving to another club for free would mean Benteke would receive a big wage and a massive signing on fee because the club wouldn’t be paying millions for his transfer. In effect the money a club saves on a transfer fee is ‘shared’ between the club and the player over the period of his contract.

The player gets a bigger wage and signing on fee and the club has extra money to invest because they saved money by not paying a fee for the player.

Imagine Benteke signs a 4 year contract with a club and his £27m fee is spread over the length of his contract. That is almost £7m a year (£135,000 a week) the club has to play with for Benteke’s wages, signing on fee, agent fee or club investment.

That is a massive incentive for a player to not move this summer. If Benteke is earning £130,000 now he could effectively earn another £100,000 a week just by signing on a free transfer.

What do I think will happen?

I think the club will try to sell Benteke this summer and the player won’t want to move or find the terms acceptable.

In January 2020, Benteke will be able to speak to other clubs and sign pre-contract agreements such as Vincente Guaita did with Palace in February 2018.

Basically, what goes around comes around. Benteke will prove to be Palace’s most expensive flop unless he has a stella final season for Palace in 2019/20.

We signed Guaita and Meyer on free transfers last summer so we are hardly in a position to complain that our most expensive player will be leaving us for free.

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