One for the future

AP

The 21-year-old Christian Benteke (in pic, maroon jersey) has plenty of time to improve and it is clear why Villa fans are excited about not just his current form but also his long-term potential.

Christian Benteke is proving to be one of the signings of the summer — and Paul Lambert insists Aston Villa are not looking to make a quick profit on him.

Benteke has been in sparkling form since the club invested GBP7million to bring him from Genk on a four-year contract.

He has netted six goals, replaced Darren Bent as Villa's number one striker, and also established himself in the Belgium side which is being hailed as one of the most exciting teams in Europe.

Lambert is constantly singing the praises of the 21-year-old and is adamant he will remain at Villa should any interest be forthcoming in the player.

He said: “Christian has been excellent for us. He is a big strong lad but he can also play. If he keeps progressing the way he has so far, he will be an incredible player.

“I have to hold onto Benteke. He’s going nowhere.”

At such a young age, Benteke has plenty of time to improve and it is clear why Villa fans are excited about not just his current form but also his long-term potential.

Lambert added: “I have run out of things to say about Christian. He is not the finished article but he has been excellent for us and a fans’ favourite.

“You have to be a good player to get into the current Belgium side and he has scored plenty of goals for them already.

“He might not peak for a few years yet. He’s only 21 and can be anything he wants.”

Lambert’s determination to keep his prize asset could be severely tested if Benteke helps Belgium qualify for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 and then produces his best form on the biggest footballing stage of all.

That would surely see one of the top clubs come calling with an offer that Villa could not refuse but for now he seems to be at the perfect club for his development.

Bent was expected to lead the line for Villa this season, having enjoyed a prolific career in the English Premier League, but has been overshadowed by Benteke.

Lambert left Norwich in the summer to take over at Villa Park and he has put his faith in the club’s crop of youngsters.

Villa fielded their most inexperienced EPL line-up against Reading recently with an average age of 23 years and 324 days and Lambert’s faith was rewarded when Benteke headed a late winner. Lambert said: “We have a really young team, our youngest side in the Premier League since it started, which bodes well for the future.

“The young lads have been exceptional since Sunderland. I couldn’t ask for any more from them. We had a tough run with the two Manchester clubs and Arsenal.

“Benteke has been unbelievable for us and Ashley Westwood has been absolutely terrific. People like Ashley are maybe not getting the credit they deserve.

“He is playing unbelievable football, he never gives it away and that’s from a young lad who has just come from Crewe. He’s slotted in so well and stayed in the side.

Such has been Benteke’s form that it is widely speculated that Bent will be leaving Villa when the transfer window opens, with Liverpool frequently linked with a move for the England international.

Bent has struggled to earn a place even on the bench in recent weeks but Lambert insists Villa have received no inquiries for the player and that he has not handed in a transfer request.

Lambert also denied there is a clause requiring the midlands club to make a GBP3million payment to Sunderland if Bent makes 50 league appearances. The 28-year-old has so far clocked up 47 league games for Villa.

Instead it seems Lambert simply prefers Benteke and that is paying off for Villa right now.

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