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Christian Benteke Has Just One Season to Prove Himself and Brendan Rodgers to the World

23/07/2015 17:32 BST | Updated 23/07/2016 10:59 BST

Liverpool found themselves with a huge, palpable hole in their side last season. If you looked closely at this void, you could just see the outline of Luis Suarez with Mario Balotelli trying his best to squeeze in. It just didn't work - the old square peg in a round hole problem.

The Reds floundered last year after the sale of the brilliant Uruguayan to Barcelona. It wasn't just that their forward line lacked a certain pizzazz in his absence, in fact at most times they just lacked a striker at all.

Injuries to Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli's well documented struggles meant that Raheem Sterling was tasked with carrying the entire weight of the red half of Merseyside on his young shoulders, something that was never realistically going to work out.

When compared with their brilliant assault on the title in 2013/14, Liverpool were toothless and a telling sign of their toil was that an ageing Steven Gerrard finished as the season's top scorer with 14 strikes to his name. Daniel Sturridge was the highest scoring striker, with six.

So logic follows that Liverpool needed to sign a big name forward this summer, one that can pick up the side and fire them (almost) to glory a la Suarez and Sturridge in 2013/14. And the man tasked with this is Christian Benteke.

So, can the big Belgian do it for Liverpool? Well, we'll soon find out. He's only got one season to prove himself.

When Benteke arrived at Aston Villa from Genk in 2012, he was an incredibly raw talent. One that had huge potential, but a player that needed to work and improve on certain areas of his game, such as his finishing.

Three years at Aston Villa have helped him polish off areas of his play and he has shown that on his day, he is one of the Premier League's most deadly forwards.

During his first season at Villa park, the Belgian was absolutely dynamite as he bagged 18 goals.

Going into his second season in England, many expected him to push on and perform even better, but a series of niggling injuries halted his progress. Benteke struggled to regain his form and this poor run continued on until half way through last season, when Tim Sherwood took the reigns at Villa Park.

Sherwood has a short history in rejuvenating fallen strikers (see Emmanuel Adebayor) and he managed to perform the same magic with Benteke.

He was appointed on Valentine's Day 2015 and it didn't long for the love affair between manager and striker to blossom. Where Benteke had scored only three goals all season up until Sherwood's appointment, he went on to bang in another 12 before the end of the campaign.

So, is it love and a manager that trusts in him that Benteke needs most? Brendan Rodgers will have little time to figure this out.

What he will have to do as the bare minimum is give the Belgian a fairer shot than he gave to Mario Balotelli. The Italian was a panic buy, one that never truly fit into Rodgers' system, something that became quickly and sometimes painfully obvious as the season wore on. Balotelli wasn't Rodgers' man and he wasn't willing to give him the time of day.

But where Mario was a sort of unwanted and inconvenient child, Benteke truly is the Northern Irishman's chosen one and his last throw of the dice at Liverpool.

It is unlikely that the American owners will tolerate another season in the nadir and if Benteke can't produce the goods then Rodgers' time at Liverpool may not extend beyond next season. He needs to prove that Liverpool's title challenge in 2013/14 was his, rather than based solely on Luis Suarez.

Not only that, but another season battling it out for sixth instead of first may confirm for many that Liverpool are now officially a second-rate power, one that is, in the short term at least, no longer capable of challenging the newly established top four.

Liverpool need goals and they need them now. Daniel Sturridge is out until mid-October and may struggle to recover having also been ruled out for more than half of last season. That leaves the goalscoring pressure squarely on the shoulders of the Belgian who has to produce the goods from the off.

If Liverpool want to keep thinking of themselves as one of the world's biggest clubs, then they need to prove it on the pitch. Benteke will either be integral to them doing so, or he will be the poster boy of their fall from grace.

He has one season to do it for himself, for Brendan Rodgers and for Liverpool. The signing means that the futures of club, player and manager have become closely intertwined. It will be compelling to see if all three are up to the task.

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