By North-west correspondent Alex Stevens
Phil Thompson is convinced Christian Benteke will leave Liverpool in the summer – and believes China is a likely destination.
The former Liverpool captain claims the newly-rich Chinese Super League is the best chance for the Merseysiders to recoup their transfer fees for Benteke and fellow outcast striker Mario Balotelli.
Benteke has not started a Premier League match since the start of January after finding himself behind Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and playmaker Roberto Firmino in the pecking order to spearhead the attack.
The Belgium international has failed to make any of manager Jurgen Klopp’s last 12 starting line-ups and Thompson does not see the 25-year-old’s situation changing.
“You don’t need to be an expert or an insider to see that Benteke will be looking to move on in the summer,” Thompson told Sky Sports. “We’re all trying to read between the lines and I don’t know anything definite but it looks like he’s all but gone.
“I would say for the sake of his own career he needs to leave. He’s got the Euros coming up and he’s going to be sat on the bench with Romelu Lukaku starting and he won’t want the same to happen next season.
“He can’t do the pressing game that Jurgen Klopp demands, Danny Ings is coming back as well and he’s more suited to doing what Klopp expects, so Benteke could find himself fourth in the pecking order.”
Benteke became the second most expensive signing in Liverpool history when he joined from Aston Villa for £32.5million last July. This came a year after the Merseysiders paid £16million for another flop forward Mario Balotelli.
Benteke went public with his dismay at being frozen out during the recent international break, although a knee injury has subsequently kept him out of Liverpool’s last three matches.
Thompson the Chinese Super League as Benteke’s most likely destination, while he thinks it is unlikely that Liverpool would sell to rivals Everton, who could lose Lukaku in the summer.
“Football is stranger than ever but I still think it would be highly unlikely that they’d sell to Everton,” the former Liverpool assistant manager told Sky Sports. “I remember back when I was youth team coach we sold Peter Beardsley to Everton and I thought it would come back to bite us, which it did.
“The way the Chinese market is going you’d think that is the most likely source for Liverpool to recoup the fee they spent on him. I’d imagine it will be a similar case for Mario Balotelli.”
In other Liverpool news, the Merseysiders are closing in on a signing from the Bundesliga.