Should Jurgen Klopp push Liverpool to cut losses and sell Christian Benteke?
Christian Benteke's underwhelming first season at Liverpool continues, with West Ham United reported to be ready to offer the striker a fresh start. We ask whether the Reds should admit defeat over their £32.5 million signing.
YES - They should cut their losses
Since inheriting this team from Brendan Rodgers two months into this season, Jurgen Klopp has been at pains to state that he will happily work with what he has. Benteke has been the closest to being an exception.
There have been several veiled references by Klopp to the 25-year-old needing to adapt, while his selections have made his vision clear. Increasingly, when available, Daniel Sturridge or Divock Origi has started. Klopp has even preferred Roberto Firmino -- not, strictly speaking, a striker -- to Benteke, who until March was nonetheless the Reds' top scorer this season. Liverpool are not obtaining the value from Benteke that they paid for.
For his part, the Belgian deserves better than to rot on the sidelines at a club whose decision to buy him quickly looked misguided. How perceptions have changed since a year ago, when, for Aston Villa, he tormented Liverpool at Wembley in the FA Cup semifinal.
The Merseysiders have been here before with a lumbering No. 9. The board allowed Rodgers to offload Andy Carroll, who had been bought before he took charge: Carroll arrived from Newcastle United in 2011 for £35m, lacked a clear purpose and had to move to West Ham to find himself again. His sale in 2013, even for some £20m less, suited all parties and offers a precedent for Klopp.
NO - They can better utilise Benteke
It often suits the narrative to say that Benteke lacks the quality or attitude to succeed at Anfield. This overlooks the chicken-and-egg nature of the Belgian's predicament. To focus on him during matches has been to observe a man drained of confidence, due in part to being left on the bench then asked to prove the world wrong in, typically, about 15 minutes.
To the striker's credit, he has quietly, cheerfully stuck at it. Caught between being himself and fitting in, Benteke has tried to please people by deserting his core strengths as a target man. The more hesitant he became, the more those strengths melted into the past. When he started the FA Cup ties at home to Exeter and twice against West Ham, he was sharp and energetic, linking play and even pressing opponents. He was ticking those other boxes Klopp asked him to, but at the expense of single-mindedness near goal.
What of the service? Philippe Coutinho's has been decent, but he was injured in January, when Benteke became entrenched on the bench. None of Alberto Moreno, Nathaniel Clyne and James Milner has crossed consistently accurately. Wingers? Liverpool have rarely used one. The emerging Cameron Brannagan offers a quality of set-piece delivery absent since Steven Gerrard left, but cannot break into Klopp's midfield.
Benteke has still started only six Premier League matches under Klopp, all around the turn of the year, when the entire team was misfiring. In their congested, mixed season, occasional highs like Benteke's winners at home to Leicester and away to Sunderland betrayed his pedigree. So did his classy penalty to clinch victory at Crystal Palace and another in the League Cup semifinal shootout against Stoke.
Perhaps more trust and better service could offer him a future on Merseyside. If, that is, he still wants one.
Tom is ESPN FC's Liverpool correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @writertombell.