Not boring belgians
GRAHAM RUTHERFORD takes a look at the compatriots competing to be number one in the Premier League
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