Wednesday , August 4 2021

Brendan Rodgers took a £ 32.5m transfer bet, which lasted six months at Liverpool

If Liverpool fans were used to something from the first quarter of the century in the Premier League, it was their beloved Reds who suffered a fall after finishing second in the league.

It happened in 2002/03, in 2009/10 and unfortunately for Brendan Rodgers, it also happened in 2014/15.

A big part of that season’s problem was a goal-scoring struggle. Luis Suarez moved to Barcelona in the summer of 2014 and injuries restricted Daniel Sturridge to just 12 appearances in the league.

That pair almost got Liverpool to win the title in 2013/14 by scoring 52 league goals between them, but the following season the whole team only got 10 more.

The men in charge of replacing Sturridge and Suarez simply failed to deliver. Mario Balotelli scored four goals in all competitions, Rickie Lambert three and Fabio Borini only one.

But despite all that Liverpool struggled with, the season was not a complete cancellation. They reached the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, where they faced Aston Villa.

Philippe Coutinho gave the Reds the lead before Christian Benteke equalized. The Belgian was arguably Liverpool’s main enemy at the time, with his semi-final attacking the fifth against the club at the time.

It had been shown not to be played, especially when Villa visited Anfield in December 2012 and scored two goals in a 3-1 home win.

Villa advanced to the second half at Wembley, and Rodgers made multiple tactical and formative changes, but to no avail.

His team lost three of their last six games after the semi-final, winning just once, culminating in a last-day 6-1 defeat in a horror show at Stoke.

Many Liverpool fans would have fired Rodgers that summer, others believed he deserved the chance to redeem himself thanks to what he had achieved in 2013/14.

Either way, he needed a good start to the next campaign and, with goals difficult to score, threw the dice at Benteke.

One of £ 32.5 million to be exact.

This week six years ago, Rodgers made the Aston Villa man the second most expensive transfer in Liverpool history.

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Roberto Firmino also joined the club that summer, but there was no doubt in whom the manager had more faith.

Benteke played the full 90 minutes in each of the Reds ’first five games, securing a win against Bournemouth and a sensational scissor kick at Old Trafford.

However, he had to be replaced by hamstring tension in the game after the 3-1 defeat to Manchester United, and when he returned from injury, Liverpool had a new coach in the form of Jurgen Klopp.

Again, Benteke started well, scoring what looked like a winner against Southampton (until Sadio Mane intervened with a draw) and scored a goal and helped the bench in an impressive 3-1 win over Chelsea.

A change of manager often means a change of style, but the 2015/16 Liverpool team was no exception on this front.

During the eighth game of Klopp’s new reign, the Reds headed to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City, breaking them absolutely in an electric first half of counter-pressure and an incisive and quick step to the third final.

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When Benteke replaced Firmino with 15 minutes to go, the Brazilian had scored the first two goals and scored the third in what would end up being a resounding 4-1 victory. It was clear which way the wind was blowing for the new Liverpool look.

The great Belgian was still able to contribute, scoring winners against Leicester, Sunderland and Crystal Palace, and finished the campaign with 10 goals, just three shy from top scorer Sturridge.

But he played a total of just 15 minutes in all nine Reds games in the Europa League play-offs, and his starts were mainly restricted to league matches that fell between European matches when the top men needed to rest.

Within six months, Benteke went from being the second most expensive player at the club to exceeding the requirements, thanks almost entirely to the managerial change that occurred along the way.

So what did he do? He moved to Crystal Palace and returned to Merseyside in April 2017 to score his team’s two goals in a 2-1 victory, a match that remains the league’s last home defeat to Liverpool against ‘a full Anfield. Nemesis was reborn.

At the time, Benteke had a few difficult years in front of goal, although he scored double figures in the Premier League last season and only five players in the division averaged more goals without a penalty for 90 minutes.

His year at Liverpool will continue to be an interesting footnote in his career, but Benteke is not over yet.

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