WATFORD - Aston Villa captain Fabian Delph would understand if in-demand striker Christian Benteke chose to leave the club in order to "better" himself, he said on Thursday.
Villa chief executive Tom Fox revealed this week that the club intend to offer Benteke, 24, an extension to his contract, which expires in 2017, in an attempt to ward off potential suitors.
But with Liverpool among the clubs reported to be pursuing the burly Belgium international, scorer of 15 goals this season, Delph said it would be pointless to stand in his way if he elects to leave.
"I wouldn't try to convince anybody (to stay)," Delph told journalists at England's team hotel in Watford, north of London, where they are preparing for Sunday's 2016 European Championship qualifier away to Slovenia.
"Everyone is entitled to make their own decisions. If they have a chance to move on and better themselves, I can't tell them not to do that.
"If they want to commit themselves to the club and stay there, then happy days there as well. But it is down to that individual." Delph, who signed a new four-and-a-half-year contract in January, added: "It would have a big effect (if Benteke left).
"He is a great player, world-class in my opinion, a good lad to have around as well. It would be a big loss. He scores a lot of goals." Fox was reluctant to be drawn on the prospect of Benteke asking to leave Villa Park when questioned on the matter on Wednesday.
"If Christian wanted to leave, would we stand in his way? It's very difficult to make a blanket statement about a player wanting to leave," he said.
"There has been a lot of speculation and I'm not going to contribute to it or play any of our transfer strategy out in the press.
"But we will offer Christian Benteke a new deal this summer, of course we will." Villa finished the 2014-15 season in 17th place in the Premier League, three points above the relegation zone, and lost 4-0 to Arsenal in the FA Cup final.