Birmingham sign Benitez in club record transfer

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The Independent Football

Birmingham City have formally completed the signing of Ecuador striker Christian Benitez in a move from Mexican side Santos Laguna which could cost up to £7.7m.

City faced competition from top European clubs to sign Benitez but reached agreement with Santos in early June and now the deal has been completed.

Benitez, 23, is regarded as one of the hottest prospects in football and during the last two seasons after scoring 31 goals in 58 games.

He also featured in the 2006 World Cup and his ratio of international appearances was well above the required amount to obtain a work permit.

Benitez told the club's official website "I am really happy to have signed for Birmingham and am looking forward to playing for the club.

"I think it is the right time for Christian Benitez to take on the challenge of the Premier League.

"I will be giving everything to score as many goals as possible and share in good times with the club."

Benitez is the son of one of Ecuador's all time leading goalscorers, Ermen Benitez.

He made the move to Santos after previously playing for El Nacional in his home town of Quito.

Birmingham also remain confident that Lee Bowyer will complete his move from West Ham on a free transfer.

Bowyer spent a successful loan period at St Andrews during the second half of last season when he helped the club regain promotion back to the Barclays Premier League.

Blues manager Alex McLeish remains in the hunt for Joey Barton with the possibility of taking the Newcastle midfielder on a season-long loan.