Christian Benteke would be my Young Player of the Year
It was perhaps with fitting irony that Aston Villa saviour Christian Benteke should produce his greatest heroics in claret and blue less than 24 hours after being overlooked by his peers in the PFA Young Player of the Year stakes.
The award, as we know, went to Gareth Bale who became only the third player – behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Andy Gray – to win both PFA titles, also being crowned Players’ Player of the Year at the union’s awards ceremony on Sunday evening.
Don’t get me wrong, the Tottenham talisman has been without doubt the best performer in the Premier League this season, and the worthy recipient of the PFA’s main award for the second time in three years.
But I think, when it comes to impact made by a young player making his mark amongst England’s elite, no-one comes close to the contribution of the 22-year-old Belgian in his debut season at this level.
To score more than 20 goals in a struggling Premier League side, providing virtually single-handed the catalyst for potential survival, is quite remarkable and Villa would be in a much worse situation but for his goals and guile.
His stunning hat-trick in last night’s 6-1 win over relegation rivals Sunderland was a further reminder, if needed by the majority, that here is a special player who whilst missing out on the PFA Young Player of the Year award, is sure to be crowned Villa’s player of the season.
Benteke is not the first foreign player to make an instant impression during his debut campaign amongst England’s elite but few, if any, can have made such a dramatic impact in such difficult circumstances.
He’s already a Holte End hero and whilst football fans usually express their feelings of admiration for a favourite player in a song, Villa supporters had a more innovative way of getting their message across.
At a recent home game, two of the Belgian’s biggest fans turned up at Villa Park wearing extravagant astronaut suits and parading a banner declaring ‘BENTEKE IS OUT OF THIS WORLD’.
An outlandish gesture, perhaps, but one that is not far off the mark – certainly not in the eyes of the Villa faithful who have watched in wonder as Benteke has led the fight to avoid the drop with a steely determination and guile of a veteran campaigner.
It’s incredible to think we are talking about a 22-year-old import taking his first steps in the biggest and best league in the world. He’s risen to the challenge with purpose and power and carried the burden of a £7m tag like a feather.
Much to the delight of his manager as well as his army of fans. Paul Lambert says of the 20-goal striker: “Benteke has been colossal for us, he's been unplayable in certain games. You run out of things to say about the big guy.”
Not strictly true, as Lambert found more words of praise for his number one striker after his demolition of Sunderland last night. "He's been absolutely world class," Lambert told Sky Sports. "For somebody who has just come to this country, he's been absolutely brilliant.”
No arguments there...
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