It's the dreaded Football Manager scenario: you take over Aston Villa and they have a transfer budget of £0. Nada. Zilch. In previous years, Villa had considerable monies to work with. But now? Naught.
Redundancies to non-football staff have been made public knowledge (and caused subsequent but appropriate negative reactions), but we have yet to hear what impact the budget cuts will have on the money that the next damned soul tasked with managing Aston Villa has to spend in the summer. There's no Benteke to sell this time around that will bankroll another ill-fated, if not unlucky, window.
Therefore, in the second installment in this year's version of my annual Relegation Poaching series, we're going to be looking at players whose contracts are expiring at the end of the current season. Obviously, players like Zlatan Ibrahimović are totally unrealistic targets, so any player with a value of greater than €6 million on Transfermarkt.com (the Euro is the default currency used on the site, otherwise I'd have used Pounds Sterling) will be ignored, as the implied wages they would command price Aston Villa out of the potential suitor category.
Looking at the team's deficiencies from the current campaign, one thing sticks in my head. The inability to score goals. Let's fix that.
First up: An attacker. Originally I had striker written down, but a winger would allow or possibly force Jordan Ayew --if he stays, that is-- into a more central position.
He was linked with Tottenham Hotspur just a few years ago, but has really fallen off the table since. After leaving Santos of Brazil in December following contract disputes he signed for Real Betis, but has made just three La Liga appearances since joining in February. Might be worth a look based upon his size alone, as at 1.87m he would make a formidable target man. Still just 26.
Out of contract from soon-to-be fellow Football League Championship club Blackburn Rovers, the former Villa man has scored once in 15 league appearances for the Rovers this term. Mostly on here as a joke, but at the age of 25 the local lad and academy product still has time to turn his career around. Where have we heard that before?
Michael de Leeuw:
Probably an unfamiliar name to you, it was to me as well until I started looking at these players with expiring contracts. De Leeuw plays for FC Groningen in Holland. If that name rings a bell for you, maybe it's because that's where Leandro Bacuna came from. Maybe that makes you hesitant to give de Leeuw a chance, which is fine, but he has scored nine goals in 27 Eredivisie games this year and wouldn't cost much.
Another potential player from the Dutch League, Cabral is a 25-year-old Cape Verde international that plays on the left wing. This season he has five goals and three assists in 21 league matches. A speedy trickster that's still very raw, the Championship could be a good place to test his skills while potentially auditioning for a move to a bigger club should Villa not gain promotion.
Next, how about a midfielder or two?
Tettey has been at Norwich City since the summer of 2012, but could leave this summer regardless of whether or not the Canaries are playing top flight football next season. He injured his ankle in early March and was ruled out for the remainder of the season. His contract is up at the end of June, but there is an option for a further year, which has yet to be exercised. A defensive midfielder that would bring steel and stamina to Villa, he'd be a good player for the short term at the age of 30.
Urby Emanuelson can play in almost as many positions on the pitch as clubs he's played for. From AC Milan to Fulham, the versatile midfielder that can also perform fullback duties could be a useful player for the new manager to have at his disposal. He has nine appearances in Serie A for Hellas Verona this year, and has supplied one assist.
Bolstering the backline or adding a new face in goal could really improve this team, but it's hard to see the club being able to offload any of the deadweight in the rear. Especially with the potential options available for relatively little money, the pickings are slim.
By no means is this a comprehensive list, and we're interested in hearing who you'd sign (either for free or for money) this summer if you were in charge at Aston Villa! Let us know in the comments!