Any club describing one of their player’s decision to extend their contract as if they were “a new signing” is likely draw widespread giggles from rival clubs, and annoyance bordering on disdain from the club’s own fans.
From a purely etymological point of view, an employee deciding to extend his stay in a particular company can not be considered like a new recruit, nor can his decision be coated with the usual excitement characterising a new arrival.
As far as Christian Benteke and Aston Villa are concerned, however, one could be forgiven for believing that the Belgian’s decision to withdraw his transfer request could prove to be every bit as crucial for Paul Lambert’s men as a new signing, perhaps even more.
Benteke scored 23 goals in all competitions in his debut season for the Villans last year, almost single-handedly steering the Midlands outfit towards safety after they had extensively and perilously flirted with relegation and while there are no guarantees the Belgian will replicate his form next season, to lose a player of such calibre would have represented a huge blow for Villa.
Paul Lambert’s hard working approach with the younger members of his team began to pay off towards the end of last season, with the likes of Andreas Weimann, Ashley Westwood and Matt Lowton crucial figures in Villa’s successful escape but, for all their progress, Villa desperately needed a talismanic figure like Benteke.
The Belgian galvanised the club and the prospect of losing him to Spurs would have left many scratching their heads at Villa Park, for prolific strikers are increasingly becoming a luxury, even more so for clubs slugging it out in the bottom half of the table.
However, Benteke’s decision to nail his colour to Villa’s mast is likely to have as big an impact off the pitch as on it. Paul Lambert’s firm stance after the Belgian had disclosed his desire to leave spoke volume for the Scot’s belief that, despite a troublesome first season under his tutelage, Villa are a club that could be soon rapidly moving forward.
Furthermore, by sitting down with Benteke, Lambert sent a strong message to the other of members of his young squad – he’s prepared to straighten out whatever differences might emerge, but he won’t allow a player, no matter how talented or how crucial, to hold the club to ransom.
Furthermore, in an era that sees smaller clubs struggling to hold on to their stars, Lambert’s successful discussion with Benteke will strengthen Villa players’ belief that the club has clear plans for the future and it plans to see them out accordingly.
“I had a full and frank discussion with Christian Benteke on his return to training this week regarding his future. It is my opinion that the best thing for Christian is to remain at Aston Villa.
“He enjoyed a terrific first season at the club and can use that as a platform to hopefully enjoy more success this season,” said Lambert after Benteke announced his intention to remain at the club, as he spoke of the Belgian’s need to secure first team football in a World Cup year.
Cynics suggested that Benteke only agreed to extend his deal at Villa Park after it became clear that Spurs were unlikely to meet Villa’s price tag but even if that was to be the case, Paul Lambert and his club would still have to be considered the winners in this story.
Will Benteke manage to repeat his goalscoring exploits next season? How vital is he to Villa’s hopes of success? We want your views so have your say below or get involved on our Facebook page or Twitter feed.