When Aston Villa fans look at the Middlesbrough squad this weekend for the first leg of the play-off semi-final, they’re likely going to see some familiar faces. While Rudy Gestede is still likely to miss out after breaking his ankle in February, Boro starts a pair of former Villans — Stewart Downing and Adama Traoré — on the wings. Combine that with Tony Pulis’ obsession with finishing ahead of Villa while at West Brom, and you’ve got a handful of guys that we should know really well suiting up for the opposition.
Only one of those guys, however, is likely to ever help Villa again, and it’s the best player from the list: Adama Traoré.
Adama struggled in his first two years in England; while it was clear the right winger had loads of potential, there was very little final product, and that was true at both Villa and Boro in the Premier League. But this year’s been a different story, with Adama terrorizing opposition left backs all season long en route to winning his current club’s player of the year award.
Given that Villa’s biggest squad weakness is at left back, this is slightly concerning as it pertains to the upcoming play-off semi-final tie.
Given his form, I’d absolutely love to have Adama still suiting up for Villa — you could say that about a lot of guys from the summer 2015 recruitment that never worked out here — but there were two silver linings that came from the deal that sent the winger to the Riverside:
- Villa got Albert Adomah, who carried the team early in the season, back in the deal (and signed Robert Snodgrass on loan this summer, which almost certainly wouldn’t have happened if Adama was starting on the right)
- Villa seem to have a sell-on clause for Adama when he leaves Boro
That second point could be the biggest here, because Adama was linked over the weekend with a £30 million move to Chelsea.
If Villa fail to win promotion this year, they’re going to be in a pinch next season to meet Financial Fair Play regulations — the expectation is that the club would have to sell players to get under the maximum allowed loss over the first three-year period of Tony Xia’s ownership. We don’t really know how much Villa would need to raise in transfer fees and by clearing wages off the books, but it seems relatively certain that players will need to leave the club this offseason to make the money work.
This is where an Adama sale would be a huge benefit to the club. If Villa can get even £5 million this summer via their sell-on clause, that’s £5 million less they’d have to find a way to clear off the books. Maybe that means being able to keep a talented utility player like Birkir Bjarnason around, or perhaps it’ll be the cash that could let Villa negotiate a permanent transfer for Sam Johnstone. Either move (or any similar set of ones) would certainly be more beneficial than the winger staying at a promotion rival.
And even if Villa do go up, they’ll still run into FFP regulations at some point. The math will be different, and they won’t have to clear players out to be compliant, but they wouldn’t be able to spend as much as the chairman would surely like. Any additional cash they could get from Adama moving could be enough to, say, lure Christian Benteke back home.
Over the next week, we’ll probably be holding our breath whenever Adama’s on the ball. Hopefully he does it in different colours than Boro red next year, because there’s a financial benefit for our club if he does.