This morning we herd some rumors that Chelsea were interested in Christian Benteke, reportedly joining quite a few other clubs throughout both England and the rest of Europe in registering interest in the player. Benteke's agent later emphatically denied any contact with Chelsea about Benteke, something that would indicate to many that the player would be remaining at Aston Villa.
Several hours later, the Benteke rumors have taken a major twist. The player has reportedly handed in a transfer request, and the club confirmed this in a statement released shortly thereafter:
"Having received his transfer request, we have also informed him that should we receive an offer within an appropriate timeframe during pre-season which meets our valuation, we would act upon it. But he will remain a Villa player should this not happen."
"He was reminded that there are three years remaining on his contract, we consider him to be a Villa player and expect that he will be with us for the 2013-14 season."
Manager Paul Lambert had the following to add to the club's statement:
"While we're hugely disappointed that Christian has put in a transfer request, it's important that people appreciate we are trying to build something strong and vibrant here at the club - something this club demands and stands for, and we want Christian to be part of that."
I'd still be pretty shocked if Aston Villa decided to sell Benteke for a semi-reasonable fee, transfer request or not. The player has very little leverage in this particular case, as he's still under contract for a good number of years. That said, it's a bit telling that the club have made public their agreement to sell the player for a suitable offer, as we'll almost certainly find out what that entails in relatively short order.
The timing of the rumors from Duncan Castles this morning concern me a bit, as he seemed pretty emphatic in his statement that Chelsea were indeed interested in the player. Benteke's agent emphatically denied contact with the London club, but the timing of Benteke's transfer request would seem to indicate that somebody out there has made it clear to him that they're interested.
Regardless of whether or not Chelsea have actually shown interest in Benteke to this point, they really ought to do so now that he's most certainly on the market. He'd be another young player with world class upside, and he'd be just one more gentle push toward the door for Fernando Torres.