Rodgers’ fate at Benteke’s feet
Liverpool boss Rodgers' fate rests squarely on Benteke's shoulders
Brendan Rodgers likes to complicate things.
His interviews, his tactics, his philosophy and even his contradictions all regularly conspire to make life difficult for himself and Liverpool FC.
But, on this occasion, he has simplified his position. If Christian Benteke fails, Rodgers gets the sack.
Even the manager must be relieved at the lack of complexity. There are no convoluted permutations any more. The cloudy, grey areas have dissipated.
It's all there in the black and white small print of Benteke's new contract.
If the Belgian doesn't end his manager's streak of signing inept strikers, then it all ends for Rodgers.
Liverpool's well of goodwill will run dry and the Anfield faithful will no longer tolerate the intolerable decision-making in the dugout.
Rodgers already skates on thin ice. Seven signings since the end of the season underline his compulsive spending and only Nathaniel Clyne, James Milner and Benteke are recognised, proven competitors.
But Benteke brings the baggage.
Like all Reds strikers, he drags the ball and chain of a club's storied history. He's shackled to the shadows of Suarez, Torres, Rush, Dalglish, Toshack, Keegan and Hunt, voracious predators and serial silverware winners.
Just as the designated No. 9 at Newcastle walks in the footsteps of Shearer and Milburn, Liverpool's forwards tap at the windows of Anfield's Hall of Fame, seeking admission.
Benteke has so much to live up to. What's more, he's also tasked with exorcising the ghosts of recent spending sprees.
Daniel Sturridge, Mario Balotelli, Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert managed 13 goals between them last season and were the overriding reasons why Liverpool's campaign disintegrated. Rodgers signed all four.
Despite his regal status on Merseyside, even King Kenny struggled to justify the £35 million ($75m) frittered away on Andy Carroll. But he was also the manager who signed Suarez, a striker worthy of wearing Dalglish's No. 7 jersey.
Dalglish signed both a lost cause and a legend. In comparison to his successor, his brief track record now appears exemplary.
Rodgers might use Sturridge's fragility as a defence, but the other three flops are cases for the prosecution.
Balotelli did the most damage of course, his temperament never really clearing customs when he arrived from Italy.
His puzzling purchase epitomises Rodgers' exasperating forays into the transfer market and comparisons have already been made with Benteke. With a price tag of £32.5m, the 24-year-old evokes memories of Balotelli's expensive panic buy, but the circumstances are different.
Rodgers has doggedly pursued the Aston Villa man for months, making him his primary target, which negates any suggestion of a last-minute purchase, but increases the pressure on the manager.
Rodgers got exactly what he wanted, but at the wrong price and, arguably, in the wrong position.
Villa manager Tim Sherwood expressed surprise at Liverpool's initial interest, claiming that Benteke profited from crosses from wide areas, rather than the intricate passes often favoured by Rodgers' sides.
Sherwood was probably messing with the heads of both men, to muddy the water and perhaps jack up the price, but Benteke isn't the kind of target man traditionally favoured by Rodgers.
But he isn't Carroll either. Aside from similarities in size, he's quicker and turns faster than the more languid West Ham United striker.
Benteke's goal-every-two-games ratio - he scored 49 times in 101 Villa appearances - alongside teammates perennially tiptoeing around the relegation trapdoor is more impressive than either Carroll or Balotelli.
But he's got to turn that tally into a 20-goal-a-season return to justify his exorbitant fee and give Liverpool an outside chance of finishing in the top four.
Danny Ings offers an alternative goal source off the bench and Roberto Firmino may play off Benteke's shoulder in support, but the Belgian must bear the weight of expectation.
He's the manager's main man.
In getting his wish fulfilled, Rodgers ripped up his get out of jail card. Unlike last season, he got what he wanted. He's all out of excuses.
Liverpool's campaign depends on the £32.5m newcomer. And so does Rodgers' job.
Chsristian Benteke's strengths weaknesses
HE BRINGS GOALS
Christian Benteke scored 49 times in 101 games for a disjointed Aston Villa. Last season, the Reds' striking quartet managed 13 goals between them. Do the maths.
His bulk often obscures his pace. Once away from markers, he's rarely caught, which presents Liverpool with the possibility of sliding balls between the lines.
Liverpool now have the makings of a solid front three with Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho just behind Benteke, who possesses the movement to link with either player.
Every mini-goal drought will be exaggerated. Every near-miss will be analysed. Every perceived slight will be amplified and dissected, thanks to the £32.5 million tag.
Benteke scored in flurries at Villa. When formations are in his favour, he flourishes, hounding defenders and chasing lost causes. When things are going less well, he has a tendency to drift to the game's periphery.
For all the talk that Benteke can adapt to Liverpool's fluid passing style, he's at his best in aerial battles. He loves a long ball. Rodgers must tweak either his tactics or Benteke's natural game.
- NEIL HUMPHREYS
"I think it was the right club for me because I had good chat with the manager and wanted to be part of his project. I came here to win trophies. I came here to reach some great goals with the team."
— Christian Benteke on his Liverpool move
Pool plant seven goals past Felda
Danny Ings scored a hat-trick as a second-string Liverpool side thrashed Malaysian Super League side Felda United 7-0 in a training match at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur last night.
The 5,000 fans were pleasantly surprised when the Liverpool open training session turned into a 60-minute game featuring most of manager Brendan Rodgers' fringe players.
Joao Teixeira scored a brace, one of which was a superb lob over the goalkeeper. Among those who played were Kolo Toure, Mamadou Sakho and Lazar Markovic.
Liverpool will play a Malaysian Selection in a friendly match tomorrow at the same venue.
Liverpool are unbeaten in their pre-season matches - having beat the Thai All Stars 4-0, Brisbane Roar 2-1 and Adelaide United 2-0.
- Wire Services.
Christian adds to brendan's attack options
The £32.5 million arrival of Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke has added a much-needed physical presence to Liverpool's forward line and more options for manager Brendan Rodgers.
The big Belgium forward will provide a significant aerial threat, something which the Reds have lacked for some time, but he also offers pace and power. His strength can cause the opposition problems and his movement will stretch their backline, giving Liverpool's playmakers more time and space to work their magic.
The England international was afflicted by a number of injuries which restricted him to just 19 appearances last season. Sturridge's finishing remains top-drawer, however, and if he can stay fit, Liverpool could have a very potent strikeforce.
The striker showed he could score goals in the top flight with 11 goals - more than anyone in a Liverpool shirt managed in the Premier League - for Burnley. His busy style and intelligent running will provide useful back-up.
Still unproven at the highest level, the 20-year-old Belgium international has not benefited much from his loan spell at Lille last season.
Technically an attacking midfielder, he has already shown a propensity to score for both Hoffenheim and Brazil and averages roughly a goal every three matches.
OUT OF THE PICTURE:
Mario Balotelli, Fabio Borini, Rickie Lambert. - PA SPORT