Crystal Palace fans have been waiting ages for a Premier League-quality striker, and now it seems that two may be coming along together. A bit like the 68 bus…
Alan Pardew, the Palace manager, has been coming in for some stick lately, more for his sales of club stalwarts, Yannick Bolasie and Mile Jedinak as for the disappointing start to the league season with a 1-0 home defeat to West Brom.
But news last night that Liverpool’s Belgium international Christian Benteke was in south London to undergo his pre-transfer medical provided at least a partial explanation to the Palace need to sell other players.
Benteke, 25, has been Pardew’s target all summer, but when Palace made its original bid for the striker, the offer was turned down as not being enough. It is understood that Palace had originally offered £23 million, plus £7 million in add-ons.
But the income this week from the £25 million transfer to Everton of Bolasie and the £4 million received from Aston Villa for Jedinak enabled Palace to go back for Benteke with a bigger wedge.
Benteke moved to Anfield last summer for £32.5 million, and Liverpool’s American owners were keen to recoup their outlay on the Belgian international. Because they certainly had not got it on the pitch: in 29 appearances for Liverpool, Benteke scored just nine goals.
Yet the player has shown himself capable of scoring regularly in the Premier League. In his three-year stay at Villa, Benteke scored 42 times, at a rate of almost one goal every two games. In retrospect, when Villa were deprived of Benteke’s supply of goals last season, their Premier League status was doomed.
The deal to take the player to Selhurst Park has been reported as worth a club record £32 million. But sources close to the club indicated overnight that in fact, the quantum is little different from the original offer: Liverpool will receive an initial fee of £27 million, with the balance due in add-ons.
“And if it is based on goals scored or match starts, then it could be some time before the extra cash is paid over if Benteke performs like he did at Anfield,” one Selhurst wag said.
Palace undoubtedly will want the Villa version of Benteke to show up. And provide the goals which will keep them in the Premier League.
The second new member of Pardew’s strike force could be Loic Remy, a player familiar to the Palace boss from their time at Newcastle.
The player’s pace is thought to be a good compliment alongside a big centre forward like Benteke, and with a skilful winger like Wilf Zaha in the side.
Chelsea signed the Frenchman from QPR for £8.5 million – he was only ever loaned to Newcastle. But he was surplus to requirements almost from the time he signed for them. Now 29, Remy has started just nine league games in his time at Stamford Bridge. In 42 appearances, mostly coming off the bench, he has scored 12 times.
Remy is clearly unwanted by Chelsea’s new manager Antonio Conte, who has been keen to whittle down his bloated playing squad. According to French sports paper L’Equipe, Remy had been offered a transfer to his former club, Lyon. But the player is reluctant to move away from London and is even more attached to his £85,000-per-week wages.
Which is where a one-year loan deal to Palace – with Chelsea picking up a large proportion of the player’s salary up to the end of his contract – comes in. Without any up-front transfer fee, such a deal might cost Palace less than £3 million over the course of the year.
Given the side’s poor run for league form, stretching back to November 2015, with just two wins in 22 games now, Pardew needs to make signings who will get goals. Like Emmanuel Adebayor didn’t.
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