Christian Benteke, a striker with power and pace!

Replacing Mario Balotelli at Liverpool was hardly going to be difficult. The controversial Italian striker only managed one goal for the Reds last season so any new recruit did not have big boots to fill. Liverpool could not afford to get a major transfer decision so badly wrong again though and the early signs are that, in Christian Benteke, they may now have the firepower needed if they want to return to the Champions League.

Christian Benteke of Liverpool.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Replacing Mario Balotelli at Liverpool was hardly going to be difficult. The controversial Italian striker only managed one goal for the Reds last season so any new recruit did not have big boots to fill.

Liverpool could not afford to get a major transfer decision so badly wrong again though and the early signs are that, in Christian Benteke, they may now have the firepower needed if they want to return to the Champions League.

He took just 116 minutes to equal Balotelli’s goal return for Liverpool with the winner against Bournemouth on his Anfield debut and he grabbed his second of the campaign with a stunning overhead kick against Manchester United, albeit in a 3-1 defeat.

There is a long way to go until he can be declared a success at Liverpool, but it is clear why the club were persuaded to spend GBP32.5million to take him to Anfield.

Born in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Benteke’s family emigrated to Belgium when he was a child and he played youth football for JS Pierreuse from the age of six before moving to Standard Liege in 2004.

He was loaned out twice by Standard Liege by the time he was 20 and did enough to earn his Belgium debut in May 2010, having previously represented his country at the Under-17 World Cup.

He moved to Genk in 2011 and began to make more of an impact, scoring 18 goals in all competitions during the 2011/12 campaign.

His fine form continued at the start of the following season and he had netted three goals in five games, as well as scoring his first goal for Belgium against the Netherlands, before Aston Villa came calling.

They swooped on the final day of the transfer window, spending a reported GBP7million to sign the 21-year-old on a four-year contract.

“I am still young and I have realised my dream. My dream was to come here and I am very happy,” said Benteke, who admitted the success of fellow Belgians Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen and Eden Hazard in England had inspired him. “I hope I will be a success. I am motivated.”

Villa manager Paul Lambert promised his new signing would be a “handful” and he was proved right, with Benteke’s pace and power proving difficult for defenders.

He was handed his debut as a substitute against Swansea and made an instant impact with a goal in a 2-0 victory, with Lambert suggesting the forward was “unplayable”.

He settled in quickly, netting twice in an impressive 3-1 win at Liverpool before scoring six goals in five games during January and February and a hat-trick against Sunderland in April.

His eventual tally of 19 league goals in his first campaign beat Dwight Yorke’s record of most goals in a Premier League season by a Villa player, which had stood at 18.

It was obvious that Villa had found a gem and he was soon linked with bigger clubs, prompting him to hand in a transfer request in July 2013. It was withdrawn two weeks later though — after Villa rejected a GBP18million bid from Tottenham — and Benteke committed his future to the club by signing a new four-year deal.

The 2014/15 season proved more of a struggle as Villa battled against relegation and Lambert was sacked, before Tim Sherwood replaced Lambert and guided the club to safety as well as the FA Cup final at Wembley, where Benteke and his team-mates were thrashed 4-0 by Arsenal.

That proved to be his final appearance for the club and now at Liverpool, Benteke has the chance to take his performances to another level as he competes in European football for the first time. His fitness has been a concern in recent years, particularly during the 2013/14 season when knee and groin problems affected his Villa availability before he ruptured his Achilles tendon in training, ruling him out of the 2014 World Cup.

But if he can stay fit, Benteke could be just what Liverpool have been missing since the departure of Luis Suarez.

 PA Sport