Former MK Dons midfielder Cristian Benavente has secured a contract with the Peruvian club Universidad César Vallejo (UCV) for their upcoming 2024 season.
Benavente, who had a single season in England with MK Dons, spent much of 2023 injured, not featuring as his side failed to add to their title wins in 2021 and 2022. Benavente had been keen to remain with Lima and hunt a second title, but they opted not to renew his contract.
That meant a departure from the team after two seasons but not a move away from his homeland. Capped by his national side, he has opted to remain in Peru, penning a deal with UCV, who finished eighth in the table last season. As well as the league campaign, UCV will compete in the 2024 Copa Sudamericana, with a game against Sport Huancayo coming up in March.
MK Dons fans may not remember the 29-year-old fondly. He came through the youth ranks at Real Madrid, appearing regularly for their B Team before being snapped up by Dons’ boss, Karl Robinson, in 2015. He was branded as the Peruvian Ronaldinho and had been a £3.5m target for West Brom at one point. At just 21, was an exciting prospect as the Dons faced up to life in the Championship.
He flopped; he appeared just five times for Robinson’s side, starting once in the Championship and three times in the League Cup. That competition brought him his final outing in English football – he was withdrawn after 36 minutes of a humiliating 6-0 drubbing against Southampton and wasn’t seen in a Dons’ shirt again.
In January 2016, just months after arriving, he was released from his contract, allowing him to find a new club. He joined Charleroi in Belgium, where had spent several seasons, turning out 101 times and bagging 29 goals in the process.
He then had a spell in Egypt with Pyramids FC, penning a three-year deal. His spell in North Africa was not a huge success, and he had loan stints with Nantes, Antwerp, and Charleroi before moving to Peru in February 2022.
It’s often fascinating to see where some of the more obscure players from a club’s past rock up, and Benavente will be one few MK Dons fans will remember in a good light.
Whenever a team signs someone from Real Madrid, great things are expected, but he looked a long way off the pace when he appeared in a Dons shirt. However, he has periodically appeared for his country, most recently in 2019 against Colombia, and he has two international goals to his name.
His move to UCV won’t mean a huge amount to MK Dons fans, other than perhaps giving them a little trivia to repeat to their friends next time they’re at Stadium MK.