Paul Merson doubts Christian Benteke can replicate his goal record but believes Aston Villa have a gamble to make

Former Villa midfielder says that striker will make money for the club whether he stays or goes

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The Independent Football

Former Aston Villa star Paul Merson has defended Christian Benteke’s transfer request suggesting that the situation could be a win-win situation for the club.

Benteke scored 23 goals in all competitions last season, but he rocked the club’s hierarchy when he handed in a transfer request earlier this week.

But Merson, who made over 100 appearances for Villa, believes that the club have to make a choice whether to cash in on the striker now, or to hold-out and hope he earns them more on the pitch with his performances.

 “Sometimes it’s not the player, sometimes it’s the agent who will look at it and think wait there a minute, he’s got 20 odd goals, he’s been unbelievable,” Merson told Absolute Radio.

“Is he going to do that next season?  I very much doubt it. Do you take the £23 million or 24, 25 - whatever it is or do you play safe and if he does stay, they will stay up and then it’s worth 100 million. That’s the big gamble Aston Villa have.”

Benteke has been linked with a move to another Premier League club, with Tottenham reported as a possible destination though Chelsea are believed to be in the hunt too.

Owner Randy Lerner has given the ok to chief executive Paul Faulkner to hold out for a fee around £25m, meaning clubs will have to part with a substantial sum of money to land the forward.

Merson also spoke on whether the Belgian would stay at Villa Park despite being unhappy.

“I don’t believe in all that unhappy player stuff. If he’s there at the start and he’s signed and the window closes, I don’t think he’s a lad who’s going to sit there and mug it off and sulk.

“I just don’t see that at all.  I think if he does that other managers will then look at him for next season and think no he’s a bad egg.  So I don’t see a problem.  I don’t think Villa lose either way.”

Paul Merson was speaking to Absolute Radio's Rock 'N' Roll Football Show with Ian Wright