I think nearly any Aston Villa fan would tell you that it's a good thing that Randy Lerner is putting the club up for sale. After a rousingly successful first few years, the club has stagnated under Lerner's ownership recently, and a change could certainly help matters. But that doesn't mean that it's all sunshine and roses.
Today's statement has made it seem as if Lerner does not have a potential buyer lined up for the club, which flies in the face of rumours we had been hearing for weeks. Talk of continuing normal operations for the summer and his engagement of Bank of America Merrill Lynch to advise on the sale tell us that we may be in for a long wait. And that could be a very dangerous situation for the club.
There are two issues at hand: money and uncertainty. The former is pretty self-explanatory. Paul Lambert has made repeated calls for more transfer funds over the summer, and I think we can all agree that renewed investment in the club is needed. But where will that come from until new owners are brought in? Lerner will be loathe to pump more cash into the club when he's trying to turn it around for a tidy profit. Doing so defeat the purpose of selling. If he can get the £200 million that he's rumoured to be asking for the club, it takes a pretty significant hit if he gives even £20 million for transfers. He will have to do something, though, as this is clearly not a club who are ready to compete at the highest level, and leaving them as-is will hurt the sale price.
The uncertainty goes hand-in-hand with the money, though. If you're a player looking to sign with a new club over the summer, would you go somewhere that essentially has no owner? Sure, you could end up with a John Henry/Fenway Sports Group type situation, but you could also find yourself working for someone like Vincent Tan or Carson Yeung. Why take that risk when there are plenty of other clubs for whom you could play?
Any new owners will have to recognize the situation in which Villa find themselves, and it seems likely that a heavy investment will come once a sale is made. But if that doesn't happen quickly, the club risk finding themselves in a position like Arsenal's last summer: waiting until the end of the window to make major moves. And while it ended up working for the Gunners, their situation was different. They were a club who would be safe–heck, they'd even be quite good–had nothing happened. Villa are not that club. They need a serious re-build and it won't come in the form of minor bit players.
If a sale doesn't happen soon, there is a very real chance that Villa find themselves mired in mediocrity even after the summer window closes. This team, as it's currently made up, would certainly be part of the relegation discussion in the early going next year, and that could lead to the need for significant purchases in the January window. As we all know, those types of purchases (see: Darren Bent) are overly expensive and often end up being bigger problems down the road. Pay too much then and that limits the possibilities next summer and so on and so on.
It sounds like I'm being pessimistic, but I'm not. I just want to emphasize how important it is that this sale happen as quickly as is possible. The future of Aston Villa is riding on it.