London - Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke could become one of the world's best players, manager Paul Lambert said after the Belgian scored in a 1-0 Premier League victory at Crystal Palace on Tuesday.
Benteke, returning after a three-match suspension following a red card against Tottenham Hotspur a month ago, scored an excellent solo goal at Selhurst Park to give Villa their first win since September.
It was the 24-year-old's first goal since March and an indication he could finally be rediscovering his top form since returning in October from a seven-month Achilles injury lay-off.
After watching Benteke's match-winning performance in just his fifth game of the season, Lambert said the goalscorer had a big future.
"Christian scored a fantastic goal," Lambert, a Champions League winner with Borussia Dortmund as a player, told reporters.
"I have been fortunate in my own career to play with some of the best in the world, and if he keeps progressing like this and learning, hopefully he'll hit those heights. He is certainly a terrific footballer."
Powerful Benteke has now struck 30 league goals in 65 games in struggling Villa teams since his 2012 move from Belgian club Genk.
The Belgium striker has also hit six goals in 18 appearances for his country but his career was temporarily halted when he suffered a ruptured Achilles in April, meaning he missed the World Cup in Brazil.
Tuesday's victory lifted Lambert's side to 12th in the table with 16 points from 14 games, and defeated Palace manager Neil Warnock agreed that Benteke was the only difference between the two teams.
"I think if we had Christian Benteke we would have won comfortably and that is what we are looking for in January (during the transfer window)," Warnock said.
"We are just missing that quality at the front. We do need that Benteke and they are hard to come by."