David Bentley at Spurs was a completely different player than the one who had performed so sterlingly at Blackburn Rovers. Ewood Park faithful were entertained by a football artist who had finally shown maturity and consistency to match his early Arsenal promise. He even added industry to his game.
In the three years at Blackburn, David Bentley has shown that he is a footballer who can change a game with an accurately flighted cross or a defence-splitting pass. More importantly he evolved into that type of player that a team could rely on to win hard-fought games. He was, at Blackburn, what David Dunn had threatened to be had he stayed on at the Lancashire club.
After learning how to be a footballer in Blackburn, Bentley this season, has seemingly forgotten all that and reverted to being just a show-pony. Nevertheless, the man is an obvious talent and therefore his availability on the transfer window should not be overlooked by Premiership managers. Transfer rumours are already abound, with 'Arry reportedly trying to offload Bentley and ₤8m to Aston Villa in exchange for Ashley Young. Atletico Madrid also has been rumoured to offer ₤10m for Bentley's services.
Looking at Bentley's Spurs season, he scored arguably the goal of the season against Arsenal this term. A beautifully executed volley. But that was the only contribution of note. He ended the season with that one goal and two further assists in the Premiership. Crosses-wise, he had whipped in 37 crosses with an accuracy of 20.9%
Compare that with his previous 2007-08 season with Blackburn, where he scored six goals and assisted in seven others. His crossing percentage was 25.7%, swinging in 11.24 crosses per game. Crosses and corners attempted were 416, the highest for that season. Bentley's chances created per game was 2.45. All this suggest that David Bentley has tremendous ability and this season is not a true representation of him.
So what went wrong?
Perhaps he started to believe in his own hype. Perhaps Bentley thought that he had become a marquee player, a superstar. The ego had inflated so much that he had forgotten about effort and commitment on the pitch. In Spurs, that was the complaint...that he did not work hard enough for the team. Two stunning seasons and a big-money transfer can do that to a person.
Furthermore, playing for a club which Bentley had supported as a boy introduced unnecessary pressure on the player resulting in him trying too hard to please. In the end, the flicks did not come off and the crosses failed to find their targets.
Now where should he go?
Liverpool could be that club who can put Bentley's career back on track. Rafa Benitez had a ₤12m bid rejected last season for Bentley so he clearly rates the player. With Liverpool in serious financial debt, a cut-price Bentley ₤10m may be attractive to Rafa. The right side of Liverpool's midfield is a weak area and Liverpool should be looking to strengthen that side of the pitch.
With Bentley in the team, the crossing into the penalty area will add another offensive dimension into the Liverpool attack. A 4-3-1-2 formation will accommodate Mascherano, Bentley, Riera/Alonso and Gerrard with Kuyt and Torres upfront. Both Kuyt and Torres are fantastic headers of the ball and Bentley, with his crossing ability, can surely enhance the aerial potency of the two Liverpool strikers.
With a change of surroundings and going back to the basics of playing football, I am convinced that the old swagger will be back. The beneficiary could be Liverpool and England. In Liverpool, Bentley will not be the superstar that he might have been at Spurs. Instead with the spotlight once again away from him, he could regain the form he showed in the 2007-08 season.
If Bentley can return to some semblance of his Blackburn form, then the heir apparent to David Beckham can once again make Don Fabio sit up and take notice. Doing the business at Liverpool would further reinforce the notion that David Bentley is worthy of a place in Capello's England World Cup squad.
The question is, would Liverpool be willing to gamble on this Spurs misfit? I hope they do.