The pair were recruited in the same transfer window for similar fees and, while the plan was to build around the Belgian, the Brazilian has been the true star
When Crystal Palace parted with £27 million up front and agreed to a further £5m in add-ons to prise Christian Benteke from Liverpool, Alan Pardew predicted the new signing would become “iconic” for the club.
The striker was far removed from such a description during his sole season on Merseyside, but his seminal moment for the Reds interestingly materialised at Selhurst Park.
Saturday’s fixture between the sides will mark 237 days since Damien Delaney’s knee knocked into Benteke’s ankle, with Andre Marriner awarding a penalty after consulting with his assistant.
Having not scored for 715 minutes, and with seconds left to play, the forward put the ball beyond Alex McCarthy and the game beyond Palace. Liverpool had secured a 2-1 victory and Benteke, who pushed and probed upon his introduction with 80 on the clock, secured a standing ovation and applause from the 3000 travelling supporters. “He was the perfect change for us,” Jurgen Klopp said post-match.
“He worked really, really hard and his first touch when he came on was a big chance. The penalty was all his because he made the move and he wanted to force the situation.”
It wasn’t often enough that the last line could be applied to Benteke during his Anfield spell, largely due to design rather than a lack of diligence.
When Liverpool, under the instruction of former manager Brendan Rodgers, made the Belgium international their principal target in the summer of 2015, sirens were sounded. An experienced and explosive figure, there were no question marks surrounding Benteke’s quality, but plenty to suggest he was at odds with the fast, fluid football expected from the club.
16 days before Rodgers finally got his target, Roberto Firmino – Liverpool’s other goalscorer from the March victory at Palace – was signed. The buying of the Brazilian was a compromise; he was the attacker the recruitment team identified as the perfect fit to re-energise a depressing frontline, but the then Reds boss believed his team should be built around Benteke.
And so, for the Northern Irishman to land his man, the no-longer-as-oft-referenced transfer committee were allowed to move for Firmino. He started half of the eight games he was available for under Rodgers, and his appearances seemed more of a concession than a show of confidence in the 25-year-old’s abilities.
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