It’s no secret that after relegation, a team’s best players are typically purged by other clubs, with top-flight returns being an attractive proposition. Lord knows we’ve all done it in FIFA or Football Manager, and we know that the top-end players for Aston Villa this year are likely to have chances to return to first-team football in a first division.
But that doesn’t make the idea of Jordan Amavi leaving Villa Park any easier to stomach. France’s L’Equipe wrote earlier today that Liverpool are amongst the clubs looking for the left back’s signature, with a price around €14 million (£10.9 million) potentially interesting Villa. Other linked clubs include AC Milan and Olympique Lyon, completing a trifecta of "big" clubs interested in the player.
Here’s the thing with Amavi, and what makes this summer really tough with him: When he played last year, he was probably Villa’s best player. That’s not to say he’s a world beater by any means — he’s still probably a subpar defensive fullback if we’re being honest — but Villa’s play with him and without him was loads different. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the attack looked more potent when he could whip balls in for Rudy Gestede, and that the Benin international struggled after Amavi’s injury.
At the same point in time though, Amavi did rupture his ACL, which is a pretty damn serious injury — and one plenty of players have never come back from the same. If Amavi heals and makes a full recovery, he could easily be back on his way to being one of the best fullbacks in the world, with a future as a full France international surely to be realized. But if he doesn’t, who knows what he’ll be? A serviceable Premier League left back probably becomes his ceiling, and that possibility is what (beyond the player wanting out) has to make Villa think about pulling the trigger on a sale.
But that possibility is also why, to a certain extent, I doubt the rumours on offer here. Let’s say Amavi really does make a full recovery and has a stellar season in the Championship. He’s not going to be that much more expensive next summer, is he? At the end of the day, he’ll have had a great year in the second division, and as a fullback, he’s realistically not costing more than £15 million in 2017. In that circumstance, there are two reasons you’d pay £11 now — that either you feel supremely confident he’ll make a full recovery and be an impactful player on a high-level team this season, or that you’re concerned about losing out on the player to a bigger team in a summer.
With Lyon, of course, you’ll remember that they wanted Amavi a summer ago but couldn’t come up with the money, and with a potential Alexandre Lacazette sale on the horizon, they might be able to this time around. And with Milan, we’ve seen this rumour floating around for a little while — might it just be a tired link? But for Liverpool, let’s say, or any club that wasn’t in for him 12 months ago, what exactly have they seen that makes a move necessary now rather than before? He’d be a classic Jürgen Klopp signing, but is this a move Liverpool would really be into making?
That doubt seems to be well-placed if you believe the Liverpool Echo, with the top Merseyside paper saying there’s no interest in Amavi at Anfield.
Reports in France linking the Reds with a move for Jordan Amavi are wide of the mark. There is no interest in him. #lfc (Neil Jones - Echo)— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) June 3, 2016
Here’s my thing with Amavi, and it’ll probably continue to be my thing for a little while: I have doubts that big clubs will come in and lodge offers for him, so I’m gonna be naturally sceptical of any rumour that comes in. At the same time though, if an £11 million offer comes in, Villa have to seriously consider taking it, and buying two £5 million-rated guys that can get you up this year — especially given that it’s tough to know what Amavi will look like when the season starts in a couple months.