Tim Sherwood believes the loss of Christian Benteke has hit Aston Villa as hard as Liverpool and Tottenham felt the departures of Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale.
Benteke was the catalyst for Villa beating the drop from the Premier League last season, with the Belgium striker scoring eight times in the final eight games of the campaign.
The 24-year-old subsequently moved to Liverpool in a deal worth £32.5million in the close-season, and Villa have struggled for inspiration and goals in his absence.
Ahead of Saturday’s trip to face beleaguered champions Chelsea, Sherwood’s side – who have scored just six times in eight top-flight matches this term – sit 18th in the table having not won since the opening day of the season.
Liverpool and Tottenham also found it impossible to replace the quality of Suarez and Bale when they left for Barcelona and Real Madrid in 2014 and 2013 respectively.
And Sherwood feels Benteke’s sale – coupled with the loss of Fabian Delph to Manchester City and Tom Cleverley’s decision to sign for Everton after a season on loan at Villa Park – is just as significant for Villa.
“Benteke leaving was absolutely the same as Suarez, or Gareth Bale,” he said.
“If he didn’t have a clause in his contract then £100m wouldn’t have taken him away from us.
“He wasn’t worth selling for any money. No money can guarantee you Premier League survival – that player could.
“It’s all relative but we scraped through relegation last season and were the worst team left in the Premier League. We lost our three best players and that should put it in perspective.
“You do drop, we can’t afford to drop. We have to make sure we stay at least where we were, and higher. That’s the size of the task ahead.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy and I think all the decision-makers at the club appreciated that.”