Thursday, June 4, 2009

Birmingham Prepares for Premier League Survival By Signing Hitman Benitez

Alex McLeish and Birmingham celebrated their return to the Premier League by breaking the club's transfer fee record. The recipient of this fee is a Mexican Primera Division club, Santos Laguna. The player, Ecuadorian international striker Christian Benitez. The fee, £9million surpassing the previous £6.25million paid for the services of Emile Heskey in 2004.

This is clearly a statement of intent. Birmingham is desperate to shed the yo-yo tag that the club currently bears. Since the 2005-06 season, Birmingham had been going up and down the division and so getting off the starting blocks early (as Hull had shown this season) must be at the utmost importance of McLeish's strategy and tactics next season. Is Christian Benitez that one signing that can turn the fortunes of Birmingham? Yes, I say.

Christian Benitez is one of the hottest prospects in world football. Only 23, he is already the best player in the Mexican Premier Division. He has scored 31 goals in 58 games in Mexico and bagged ten goals in 17 international matches. He was awarded Most Valuable Player 2006 in Ecuador while with El Nacional and more recently was named also MVP 2008 in Mexico.

Clearly the boy has talent. Although 5ft 6in, he has a great leap and can score goals with his head. Benitez possesses a great change of pace which typically leaves defenders on the floor. He can shoot with both feet, something which is very rare these days. As with all South American players, he has the technical skills and flair.

His agent has touted Benitez as the Ecuadorian "Lionel Messi". Sure, he can run at, run past and skin defenders but he is no Messi. Instead, I will label him as the alternative Obafemi Martins. He has similar physique, quick and strong and more pertinently, is more prolific in front of goal than Martins. Benitez will have taken heart from the success of Luis Valencia in the English league. Make no mistakes, he has the tools to succeed. With the right nurturing, he will succeed.

Tim Vickery once wrote in an article that the main reason for South Americans failing in England is the lack of club support to look after them and help them ease into life in England. Brazilian striker, Jo came over to England on a reputation of a goal in every two games but could not settle in Manchester City. When he was loaned out to Everton, he recaptured his scoring form and attributed that to the way Everton and in particular, Phil Neville had taken the time to care and help him adjust to life in England.

If Birmingham can make him feel at home and form a proper support group around him, then Christian Benitez will be able to focus on the real task at hand. The task of firing the goals that will lift Birmingham into mid-table security next season.

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