As we approach July, in what feels like the longest close season break of all time, the interest in Aston Villa’s transfer business is sky high. There is a new link every day, as we also await the long term targets of Tyrone Mings and Jack Butland to come to fruition.
The latest strong transfer link is to Bristol City’s highly rated centre half Adam Webster, with Villa reported to have seen a £12 million bid kicked into the long grass, amid talk of a £30 million asking price. This has brought about questions and conjecture about how interest from Villa, with their newly acquired wealth, in being dealt with by a number former Championship rivals.
Whilst I will not countenance conspiracy theories, there does seem to be a pattern of these clubs adding a premium to the price if Villa are at the other end of the phone. As well as Webster, we have also heard similar mumblings from Brentford regarding Benrahma and Leeds United in the case of Kelvin Phillips. So are clubs deliberately trying to scupper Aston Villa’s attempts to strengthen? Or are they making genuine valuations of players who are potentially vital to their upcoming campaigns?
The answer lies somewhere in the middle. Last summer Villa fans were apoplectic at Tottenham Hotspur’s ultimately fruitless pursuit of Jack Grealish, quite rightly in hindsight. He is a player who has delivered several times the eventual £25 million failed bid by steering the club to promotion and the subsequent riches. There is little doubt that it turned out well for Villa, but some were arguing that the club held Jack back from the opportunity to progress his career.
Similar arguments can be made here regarding Webster and co, who may regard a transfer to Aston Villa the perfect way to showcase their abilities in the Premier League. Alternatively they can spend another season at their respective clubs, with the risk that it won't go quite as well for them as it has for Jack Grealish. How hard they push for a move will be personal to them and a modern football environment, with ever decreasing levels of loyalty, a bit less ‘player power’ can sometimes be refreshing.
For the clubs however, why should they give a second thought to their star men being fast tracked to the Premier League ‘on the cheap’? Leeds United for example, will rightly feel that if they can keep the core of their squad together, with some shrewd additions under Marco Bielsa, they can be challenging again next season. Why would they risk that by allowing their local hero to leave creating a huge void to fill?
Of course they probably will sell him ultimately for considerably less than the current pricetag, as finances dictate that they’ll have little choice to turn down a large offer. However, the fact that both they and Bristol City with Webster have set the asking prices so high enables them to drive the hardest bargain possible. All footballers have their price and neither club have the financial luxury to close their shop, as Villa did last summer, once Sawiris and Edens took control of the mess.
Whilst the summer is long and the wait can be frustrating for supporters, I would urge patience as it will be far more palatable to see the squad enhanced with first choice options, rather than the club panic and sign players for the sake of it. Clubs will rightly try to eek as much as they can out of a newly promoted club, who are doing their best to strengthen and make an impact on the top flight. I’m sure we would want our CEO Christian Purslow to do the same in protecting our interests in a similar position.
Whatever the final outcome on transfer deadline day, I feel comfortable with the personnel who are leading our transfer business. There is a definite sense of purpose and professionalism which has not been there for a number of seasons, which hopefully will prevent the club from making the kind of poor decisions which have resulted in huge under performance for the past decade or so.