Belfast Telegraph

Brendan Rodgers snaps up Villa's Benteke for £32.5m

By Simon Hughes

Brendan Rodgers has convinced Liverpool's much-criticised transfer committee that the club should meet the £32.5m release clause on Christian Benteke's Aston Villa contract.

The 24-year-old Belgium international will become the second most expensive player in Liverpool's history as soon as he agrees personal terms for the move to Merseyside, which is expected to be concluded swiftly.

Rodgers made it clear in May to the club's owners, Fenway Sports Group, that he viewed Benteke's recruitment as the most significant piece of business the club will conduct this summer, following a season where Liverpool's struggle for goals ultimately cost them a place in the Champions League.

In the last two years of Rodgers's reign, Liverpool's transfer activities have been determined by the committee, of which he is a part along with chief executive, Ian Ayre, Dave Fallows, the head of recruitment, Barry Hunter, the chief scout, and Michael Edwards, the head of performance and analysis.

Last summer it is believed that other members persuaded Rodgers it would be prudent to sign Mario Balotelli before the Italian's dreadful campaign where he scored just once in the league. Publicly, Rodgers's relationship with the committee remains strong.

This could be viewed as another sign of FSG'S commitment to Rodgers, who nevertheless will be perceived as accountable if Benteke does not prove to be successful.

Liverpool are on the second leg of their pre-season tour and will face Brisbane Roar today before flying south for another friendly match with Adelaide United on Monday.

It is possible that Benteke could join the squad in Kuala Lumpur in time to play a Malaysia XI next Friday as Rodgers is determined that all of his new signings will be fully fit and in-tune with his demands before the opening game of the season at Stoke on 9 August.

Liverpool's move for Benteke grew more urgent after it was claimed that Manchester United wanted to sign the striker.

Whether or not the suggestion was genuine, Liverpool realised they could not afford to miss out on their number one target following experiences in previous windows where players have moved to other clubs while they refused to meet what they perceived as inflated demands.

Benteke's impending arrival means that along with Balotelli and Fabio Borini, who are not with the squad on tour, Rickie Lambert is likely to be moved on as soon as a buyer can be found.

England international Daniel Sturridge made just 18 appearances last season after missing virtually the first five months of the season with injury.

He is likely to be sidelined until at least September after undergoing surgery on a hip problem which prematurely ended his campaign in April.

That would have left Rodgers with youngster Divock Origi, playing his first season in English football after spending last season on loan at Lille, and summer signing from Burnley Danny Ings as his two choices up front.

With Benteke moving to Anfield suddenly Rodgers and Liverpool have more striking options, with Raheem Sterling sold to Manchester City in a £49million deal.

Liverpool have already invested heavily in the summer with Hoffenheim's Brazil international Roberto Firmino arriving for £29million. England right back Nathaniel Clyne was another big money signing at a cost of £12.5million.

Belfast Telegraph


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