If recent reports are anything to go by, Aston Villa aren’t going to sit by in January and try to get out of this mess with the squad they currently have.
Reports out of France indicate Rémi Garde has turned his attention toward Marseille captain Steve Mandanda to replace Brad Guzan in goal, a move that would surely signal the intent that Villa would be willing to throw money at survival in the January window.
Obviously, it doesn’t take much to say Mandanda wouldn’t be an upgrade over Guzan, who’s now in his second season of, quite frankly, being a below-average Premier League goalkeeper. If Garde thinks he can see the future of this club, it probably includes something really stupid from Guzan costing Villa a few points later in the season. And right now, that can’t be had.
Brining in the French No. 2 would boost Villa at the position, and it doesn’t seem like too far-fetched of a move. Mandanda spoke of wanting a Premier League move in April, and Villa would be the type of team that could clearly give him that chance. His contract expires at the end of the year at Marseille, who are struggling in a Ligue 1 now dominated by Paris Saint-Germain, and he could be keen to jump to England to challenge Hugo Lloris for the second half of the season ahead of Euro 2016.
His contract expiry at season’s end is what makes this a potential move for Villa — despite Mandanda’s performances dropping off a bit this year, he’s still a very valuable player. However, Marseille be keen to move him on for something in a season that’s increasingly looking like a lost one in the South of France.
A move for the 30-year-old goalkeeper would give Villa an opportunity to right something Martin O’Neill got terribly wrong nearly a decade ago. When Mandanda was a ‘keeper at Le Havre in 2007, Mandanda was brought to Villa on a trial — and while the Claret and Blues were keen, they couldn’t come up with a monetary figure that worked. Instead, Mandanda moved to Marseille that summer, and has started all but six Ligue 1 matches since his arrival eight and a half years ago.
And of course, if Mandanda moved to Villa, he’d have a relegation clause allowing him to leave the club at season’s end rather than playing his trade in the Championship. It would put him in a position where he’s either the clear No. 1 at a Premier League club, which he seems to want, or free to make a move to a club where he will be. From that standpoint, this might be a win-win for the Zaire-born goalkeeper.
But there should be concerns on Villa’s end about this strategy. Throwing money at players, via transfer fees and wages, to survive in an already-improbable situation could put the club in a tough financial spot in the Championship. Then again, it’s certainly nice to see Randy Lerner willing to pump a lot of cash into the club to try and save it — though I figure this is the first time since the signing of Darren Bent that he’s incredibly concerned about relegation.
Like the move for Mandanda? Feel there’s other areas Villa should be strengthening before goalkeeper? Let us know in the comments!
UPDATE: Get French Football Now have suggested a transfer fee in the region of £3 million, while also saying Marseille will take Mandanda’s wishes into account when accepting or rejecting Villa’s approach.