By 90Min
December 12, 2017

Every footballer has a defining moment in their career, the game or minute that stands above the rest and has its own chapter in their no doubt premature autobiography. 

Cast your mind back to a 21-year-old David Beckham launching in that goal from the halfway line or a 16-year-old Wayne Rooney ending Arsenal's 30-match unbeaten run to become the Premier League's then-youngest scorer.

Christian Benteke had never had such a moment. Not until last Saturday, that is.

Dan Istitene/GettyImages

For those of you in the dark here, last Saturday saw Crystal Palace face-off against fellow relegation battlers, Bournemouth. Palace had largely dominated and were level at 2-2 in the 92nd minute, when Wilfried Zaha was brought down in the Cherries' box. 

A cool, steely Luka Milivojević stepped up to replicate his first half success from the spot. Three well needed points were handed on a plate to the south Londoners.

Then Benteke came along. Following a few words and clearly pulling rank, the Belgium forward took the ball from his Serbian teammate and shaped up to secure three points for the Eagles. Both fans and players alike made their unease apparent, but Tekkers went ahead anyway. This was his time to shine.

Needless to say, he missed. It took his run of games without scoring up to 12 and Palace's place on the table was thus guaranteed to remain rock bottom. Fans were livid, teammates were furious and Roy Hodgson was vocally unimpressed. 

There's much to say about Benteke's morality here. Was he acting as a goal hungry striker should or seizing a chance to inflate his own ego and save his reputation? A fair evaluation might say 'a bit of both', perhaps.


But there is one thing we can be certain about, and that's this: Benteke's career hangs in the balance for Tuesday's game with Watford at Selhurst Park. The 27-year-old forward has peaked. His abilities have become a hot debate for the same football fans who once wouldn't question the fella's class. Benteke hasn't scored since May and, as we all know, set Palace back an eye-watering £32m. He hasn't come close to justifying it yet.

He's fast fallen out of favour with fans down in Croydon and in truth they owe him nothing. That's a risky place to be for a disenchanted striker, especially with the transfer window looming.

Now, only because few others will, we have to fight the lad's corner a bit. He's been playing as a lone striker all season; with Palace's chairman, Steve Parish, failing to sign any support amidst the Frank de Boer furore. In addition, he picked up a knee injury which saw him miss out on six weeks' worth of game time late in September. 

Palace are not organised to suit Benteke. Not on his own, at least. With a competent midfield core that allows the dazzling pace and skill of Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend to cause trouble down the flanks, what Palace need is a forward with a rampant hunger for goals and an instinctive feeling for where he should be positioned.


What they have instead is a strong and aerial big-man-up-top, the type someone like Tony Pulis might salivate over. He's there to win headers, intimidate the back four and knock it down for a typically more able and considerably shorter strike partner. He has no strike partner, short or otherwise, and Palace don't succeed by lumping it over the top. They've always been a team built on wingers.

All of this poses a problem for Benteke. Should Hodgson choose to play him in Tuesday's game against Watford, the forward is, in all honesty, unlikely to net three and light up the pitch like many would want. It would be a great response, but it's not remotely realistic.

The game against Watford is a chance for the man to save his career. Should he fail to turn up - if played - and leave what last grain of passion he has at home to strut about with characteristic disinterest, the fans will respond accordingly and the world of football will conclude among itself that he's not worth the print on his shirt.

Should he step out under the lights with hunger and desire, using his physicality to its full potential and seeming visibly up for it, things might be different. It's a cliché and a basic one at that, but fans want to see someone who gives it their all. It might not be enough to turn Benteke's career around, but it will go a long way to rediscovering favour at Selhurst Park.

He's apologised to the players and management, now it's time to do so to the fans.

Christian Benteke has had the chapter-worthy moment in his career already and it's not a pretty read. Tuesday is his chance to rewrite it and redefine his entire career. No pressure, lad.

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