Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has stressed that in-demand Belgian striker Christian Benteke will stay at Villa Park next season. The 22-year-old has had an excellent first season in the Premier League, scoring 19 times from 34 games to lead the Villans away from relegation.
A further four goals and as many assists from five Capital One Cup matches and a total return of 23 goals and eight assists from 39 games this year have earned him attention from a number of Europe's top clubs, including Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund.
Lambert has now sought to definitively rule out any talk of his star player leaving the club.
"I think the thing that people are forgetting is that Christian Benteke has got three years left with us... after the season he's had it is normal that people are going to be eyeing him up. I'm pretty sure, and you can ask Christian yourself, he's absolutely loving it here at the minute," the Villa boss told talkSPORT.
The 43-year-old Scottish manager also confirmed the club would open talks over an improved contract, stating: "We've been speaking over the last few weeks to try and get him sorted out". Lambert's comments follow those made by the player's agent, Eris Kismet, that his client deserved a pay rise.
According to Goal.com, Benteke earns roughly £20,000 per week, compared to the club's top earners Darren Bent, Richard Dunne and Shay Given, who pocket around £60,000 per week.
And given there is confirmed interest from Jurgen Klopp's Dortmund, who are readying themselves for the loss of playmaker Mario Götze and possibly striker Robert Lewandowski, Lambert will be aware Benteke will have to be suitably rewarded.
The one advantage Villa have is that there are still three more years on the player's contract. Of course, that may count for nothing if any one of AC Milan, Arsenal, Bayern Munich, Manchester United or Chelsea, all of whom have been linked by the Mirror, decide to pay the £30m Benteke is valued at.
At the end of the day, Lambert realises the importance of Benteke staying, not only with regard to his individual contribution but also because a sale, however financially profitable, might set a poor precedent. Key members of Villa's young squad have attracted attention from rival teams, with Liverpool eyeing Andreas Weimann and Arsenal monitoring Matt Lowton.
"I think it's important we keep the nucleus of lads we have here and add to that. It's not just about one individual. I'll be sitting down with everybody and we will speak then about what is going to happen and we will keep trying to move the club forward," Lambert concluded.