Lukaku vs Benteke: Which Belgian Would Thrive In Chelsea’s Attack?
With Chelsea reportedly in the hunt for Christian Benteke, we compare the Aston Villa man to Romelu Lukaku to see which striker would be best for the Blues.
As clubs begin their pre-season preparations, writer Tom Gatehouse assesses whether Romelu Lukaku or Christian Benteke is the best choice to spearhead the Chelsea attack next season.
It has been clear to both fans of the club and neutrals alike, that for some time, Chelsea’s frontline has not been up to scratch. Much has been said of the tribulations of the Spaniard, Fernando Torres; and of the man brought in to act as metaphorical stabilisers for the unbalanced 29-year-old, Demba Ba. Together, they managed a meagre 10 goals between them in the Premier League, which is unacceptable for a trophy hunting, mega-money juggernaut such as the Blues.
Now, with Romelu Lukaku returning to finally prove his worth at the Bridge, Blues fans have turned optimistic, largely due to the 18 goals plundered by the teenager during his loan spell at Steve Clarke’s West Brom last year.
Doubts still remain as to the adaptability and versatility of the 20-year-old Belgian however; and with Jose Mourinho reportedly in the hunt for more striking options, Lukaku still has much to prove.
This brings us to Christian Benteke, the other Belgian youngster who set the league alight for Aston Villa last year, in a similar vein to his compatriot. Benteke ravaged 23 goals from bewildered Premier League defences last season, and his exploits have made him one of the top transfer targets for a number of clubs, including Chelsea.
The 22-year-old handed in an official transfer request on Wednesday, and the Blues have reportedly been preparing a bid for the striker, which has thrown even more doubt on the long-term security of Lukaku.
If anyone had any doubts as to the type of striker favoured by Mourinho before, there cannot be many left after the Portuguese described former striker and legend, Didier Drogba, as his role model for future generations at the club,
“I think Didier Drogba, as a man and as a professional, is a good guy to be looked at as a very special player in the history of this club,” Mourinho told Sky Sports
“I can use Didier as a profile to persuade the young boys to follow me because he did follow me from day one.”
These words will ring truest for Lukaku, who by his own admission, idolises the Ivoirian hit-man, and has spoken of his wish to emulate him many times. Strongly built, standing at 6’2 (slightly taller than Drogba), the Belgian’s ferocious style of play, typified by his aerial prowess, and powerful running make him an ideal candidate to replace the great Drogba at the club. Still of malleable youth, surely Mourinho will relish the chance to nurture such a talent?
But what of Benteke? If the ‘other Belgian’ were to sign for the Blues, what could he offer that Lukaku could not?
On first glance, the pair seem to be very similar. They are the same height, have a similar weight, both are still considered to be youthful prospects, and they have both taken great strides for lesser teams in the English top–flight. While the two strikers played almost the same amount of games for their respective clubs, Benteke was a firm starter, while Lukaku initially saw the beginning of quite a few games from the West Brom bench.
Most importantly for the two men, they are both vying for top billing for the Belgian national team in the upcoming 2014 World Cup, in Brazil. This means they will both be seeking assurances from whichever club they intend to turn out for as to their playing time. Anything less than a hearty array of appearances will undoubtedly damage their respective claims.
The doubts over Lukaku’s suitability in the Chelsea line-up seem to stem from his so far, unconvincing link-up play. Ever since the brief reign of Roberto Di Matteo, Chelsea have taken strides towards playing a more attractive, dynamic style of football than the previously devised physical approach.
A physical presence up top can still herald flowing, pleasing football, and the key is to be multi-faceted in the approach; to be able to intricately involve your attacking subsidies, whilst pulling out the battering ram when needs be. Drogba was a patron of this art; able to terrify defences with his brute strength, but still weave patterns with the likes of Malouda, Anelka, and Joe Cole. Lukaku, to be fair, did not have such an array of creative minds behind him at West Brom, but there was still little to be seen of a potential to create.
Benteke, while also not fully being able to prove his linkup ability at Villa last year, is lither than Lukaku. He has a trick or two up his sleeve, and seems to be more aware of his teammates, than his more forward-thinking compatriot. While Chelsea have seen little in the way of an out-and-out goal scoring striker since the departure of Drogba, their game is now firmly centred around bringing their stunning trio of attackers, Mata, Oscar, and Hazard, into the fold in almost every attacking foray; and there has been little to suggest a move away from this mentality since Mourinho’s arrival. Comparing the two strikers, Benteke would seem to be more easily assimilated into this style, than the more primal Lukaku.
To freshen up your attacking line is an expected venture for any incoming manager looking to put his own stamp on the identity of his squad, but to bring in such a similar striker to Lukaku will surely be perceived as a lack of enthusiasm for the young man’s talents. Mourinho will surely have the forethought to allay any fears Lukaku may have, thereby starting to consolidate yet another personal relationship with a player, arguably the 50-year-old’s forte.
There has been talk of a potential cash-plus-loan deal involving the two strikers, where Lukaku would spend a year at Villa, and Benteke would arrive at the Bridge. I would dismiss this, as such a deal would surely spell disaster for the former, in terms of the World Cup, and his diminishing trust for the Blues. Chelsea spent £18m on Lukaku in 2011; a large investment for a striker who was only 18 at the time. The Belgian has spoken of his sheer disappointment at not being given a chance to shine in his first year, and any situation where he would ‘swap’ places with Benteke is just unthinkable.
Lukaku should be given a chance to grow under Mourinho’s tutelage, as Drogba once did. The Ivorian started life as a centre-back, but blossomed into, arguably, a complete striker. There is no reason why Lukaku, for all the doubts that may remain concerning his overall game, could not blossom in a similar way; honing his already decent abilities, while adding the required styles needed to succeed at such a large, expectant club like Chelsea. For the sake of Lukaku, letting Benteke slip though his fingers may be a necessary sacrifice for Jose Mourinho.
What do you think; should Chelsea show trust in Lukaku or sign Benteke? Share your views below…