Christian Benteke: new Carroll or Rodgers's Liverpool saviour?
New Anfield striker will determine the fate of his manager with fans unsure over his £32.5m arrival
Liverpool's signing of Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke for £32.5m has proved one of the most divisive of the summer, with many Reds fans invoking the memory of Andy Carroll and expressing concerns about quite what Brendan Rodgers has in mind for their team.
Some even see similarities with the deal that saw Liverpool offload twinkle-toed Fernando Torres and replace him with the lumbering Carroll in January 2011. In this version of the fable, it is the nimble Raheem Sterling who has departed, although unlike Torres few tears have been shed over his exit.
But Reds fans need not fear, says Chris Bascombe in the Daily Telegraph.
"Like Carroll, Benteke is tall. He is also good in the air, plays up front and is costing Liverpool in excess of £30m," he notes. But that is where the similarities end. Benteke is quicker than Carroll, "more technically proficient" and has proved he can score goals in the Premier League rather than the Championship.
"Benteke can also dribble, close down defenders and is an established international footballer... [and] will arrive at Anfield in a more desirable state of health and fitness than Carroll in 2011."
The Liverpool Echo, before the deal was even finalised, was reminded of another forward. "Arguably, not since Peter Crouch has a striker pursuit proven so divisive among Liverpool fans," it said, before noting that Crouch went on to be something of a success at Anfield.
"Benteke is not a Daniel Sturridge," admits the paper, and appears somewhat less convinced of his footballing pedigree than the Telegraph. It describes him as "a genuine target man, someone who can link the play with lay-offs and flick-ons and provide a strong presence up front, a quality the Reds have sorely lacked this season".
And after a dismal season in front of goal for Liverpool, Benteke is at least a reliable goalscorer.
On the negative side, he cost a lot of money and, through no fault of his own, it will take him a while to win over the fans, underwhelmed at the arrival of a target man from Aston Villa.
"While his goals return indicates he has plenty of substance, whether his style fits in with the direction Liverpool are heading is another matter entirely," warns the Echo.
Alyson Rudd of The Times harbours similar concerns. "The Belgian will, undoubtedly be the focal point in a 4-3-3 formation for as long as that is the line-up Rodgers favours," she says. "This will not bring out the best in a fully-fit Daniel Sturridge and it might not bring out the best in Benteke."
The new man also scores a lot of headers, but Liverpool have just waved farewell to Steven Gerrard, their best provider of crosses.
Rudd draws comparisons with yet another former Reds striker, Rickie Lambert, whose move to Anfield turned sour last season. "If Rodgers thought Lambert was a basic target man and could not find much use for him, it is not entirely clear why so much has been spent to bring in Benteke," she says.
"Bringing on Lambert was a signal that Rodgers had run out of options. Starting with Benteke will be an indication that he has at last succumbed to pragmatism."
It will also determine Rodgers's fate, adds Chris Bascombe of the Telegraph. For, at a cost of £32.5m, Benteke must be crowned as Liverpool's new number one striker and "is the signing most likely to determine Rodgers' long-term fate at Anfield".
"If Benteke delivers, Rodgers will be vindicated. If not, he'll be accountable," says Bascombe.