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What might have been: Kiyotake at Aston Villa

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With Villa in the midst of one of their worst seasons in memory, I thought it might be interesting to play a little "what if" and look at some transfer targets who never quite panned out. The summer of 2013 was a busy one for Aston Villa. In came Jores Okore, Antonio Luna, Aleksandar Tonev, Nicklas Helenius, Jed Steer, and Libor Kozak. But there was one name that kept coming up over and over again and never materialized: Hiroshi Kiyotake. Thankfully, we've now gone through two windows (Summer 2014 and this January) without hearing much in the way of Kiyotake news, but in 2013 he was the name on everyone's lips.

The rumours were largely propelled by nefarious in-the-know twitter accounts and don't seem to have had much basis in fact, but large chunks of the fan base spent July and August thinking that Villa had themselves a shiny new Japanese attacking midfielder. But he ended up staying at FC Nurnberg and, well, underwhelming.

In the 2013-14 season, he was perhaps the best player on a terrible Nurnberg team that finally succumbed to relegation after getting just 26 points in 34 matches (a 29-point pace if they had played the Premier League's 38-match schedule). In that season Kiyotake had fifty shots and found the back of the net only three times.

Over the summer, he signed for Hannover and has continued to not do much. He has matched his 2013-14 goal total with three in eighteen matches (an in twenty-six shots), but he's also had only three assists. For an attacking midfielder, that's not really what you want. It's probably on par with what Aston Villa have seen this season (or perhaps slightly better), but not good enough to make us regret not having him.

Given that Kiyotake was rumoured to be valued at £10 million when Villa were "interested," he seems like a player who would have never been worthwhile. If he had gone for that price, he'd be Paul Lambert's only £10 million player, and he certainly wouldn't be the best transfer Lambert's made. Could he have helped Villa a bit? Certainly. The need for an attacking midfielder who could create something has been undeniable. But I'm not sure that Kiyotake was that player. It may have taken an extra year and a half, but Paul Lambert finally seems to have gotten his Kiyotake in the form of cut-rate Carles Gil.

What could have been? Well, not all that much.