Not bor­ing bel­gians

GRA­HAM RUTHER­FORD takes a look at the com­pa­tri­ots com­pet­ing to be num­ber one in the Pre­mier League

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS -

The battle of the strik­ers

THIS sum­mer will see the ar­rival of Bel­gian in­ter­na­tional striker Divock Origi at Liver­pool, 12 months af­ter the An­field side paid £10m to French club Lille for the 20-year-old and im­me­di­ately loaned him back for the sea­son.

The young­ster is the lat­est of Bel­gium’s golden gen­er­a­tion to join the Pre­mier League. Next sea­son’s cam­paign will see the coun­try’s top three strik­ers battle it out – Chris­tian Ben­teke at As­ton Villa, Romelu Lukaku at Ever­ton and Origi at Liver­pool.

But who will win the battle of the Bel­gian strik­ers?

Ben­teke looked like the bar­gain of the cen­tury dur­ing his first sea­son at Villa. Signed from Genk for just £7m just af­ter the start of the 2012/13 cam­paign, he turned into the sea­son’s sur­prise pack­age, end­ing the cam­paign with 23 goals in all com­pe­ti­tions.

This led to spec­u­la­tion about his fu­ture with a num­ber of teams declar­ing an in­ter­est in sign­ing him.

Ben­teke even handed in a trans­fer re­quest dur­ing that sum­mer. How­ever, af­ter talks with then-Villa manager Paul Lam­bert, he signed a new deal to re­main at Villa Park.

The fol­low­ing sea­son was not so easy for him. Strug­gling with nig­gling in­juries through­out the sea­son, he only man­aged 11 goals in 28 ap­pear­ances and also missed the World Cup.

His poor form con­tin­ued into this term with the striker strug­gling for con­sis­tency and Villa as a whole bereft of goals un­til the ar­rival of Tim Sher­wood.

Since Sher­wood’s ar­rival as Villa manager, Ben­teke has had his resur­gence. His two goals against Ever­ton at the be­gin­ning of May meant he had scored 11 goals in nine games, tak­ing his to­tal for the sea­son to 14.

Villa fans will be hop­ing that he can con­tinue this form into next sea­son and they can fend off any of­fers for him dur­ing the sum­mer with spec­u­la­tion aris­ing once again that Pre­mier League clubs are con­sid­er­ing mak­ing an of­fer.

On the other hand, Romelu Lukaku is Mr Con­sis­tent. In 2012/13, whilst on loan at West Brom, he scored 17 goals for the sea­son.

The fol­low­ing year, on loan at Ever­ton, he scored 16 goals and so far this year he has net­ted 19 goals in all com­pe­ti­tions for the Tof­fees.

Th­ese are im­pres­sive num­bers for a 21year-old who is still de­vel­op­ing his game and

also car­ry­ing the bur­den of be­ing Ever­ton’s record sign­ing at £28m.

Roberto Martinez is con­vinced that Lukaku will be­come one of the world’s best strik­ers but, like Villa, Ever­ton’s big­gest prob­lem should he keep im­prov­ing will be keep­ing hold of a man who has made no se­cret of his de­sire to play in the Cham­pi­ons League.

At 20, Origi is the youngest of the three and has been hailed as an ex­cit­ing prospect af­ter im­press­ing at the World Cup, so much so that there was even talk in Jan­uary of Liver­pool re­call­ing him early from his loan spell when they were in des­per­ate need of a goalscorer.

How­ever, Origi has had a dis­ap­point­ing sea­son with the French club and has only scored nine goals this sea­son in what could be ar­gued is a far less com­pet­i­tive league than the Pre­mier League. He also had a six-month goal drought. In one re­cent poll con­ducted by a French foot­ball web­site, Origi came sec­ond in the most over­rated player cat­e­gory.

In three sea­sons at Lille, he has a scor­ing record of just 16 goals in 86 ap­pear­ances. Af­ter Mario Balotelli’s poor form and los­ing Daniel Stur­ridge for much of this sea­son with in­jury, it is un­likely that boss Bren­dan Rodgers will be re­ly­ing solely on Origi to pro­vide goals.

This may mean that Rodgers will be in the mar­ket for a big name striker in the sum­mer which, in turn, could limit Origi’s starts.

How­ever, if he can adapt to the Pre­mier League like his com­pa­tri­ots have and his game con­tin­ues to de­velop, £10m for a young in­ter­na­tional player may yet prove to be a very good deal in­deed.

Divock Origi will be out to im­press for Liver­pool

Romelu Lukaku Chris­tian Ben­teke

Mario Balotelli

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