Aston Villa fans thought they had seen the last of Carles Gil as Deportivo La Coruna were apparently obliged to acquire the 25-year-old on a permanent basis this summer, after his two-year loan spell in Spain.
However, Spanish newspaper ‘Marca’ have recently reported the obligation to buy is only valid while Deportivo play in La Liga and, after Sunday’s defeat to Barcelona ensured their relegation, this will no longer be the case. Now, it seems, the diminutive playmaker will return to Villa Park.
Signed by Paul Lambert in January 2015, Gil had several bright moments during his time in claret and blue. Indeed, he could often look a cut above anyone else Villa had at their disposal. With guile and craft and superb technical skill, he is in many ways the typical Spanish midfielder. His ability is perhaps best summed up by ‘My Old Man Said’ who commented that it was “like 1 Carles Gil vs 11 Carles Gils” during a particularly dour 5-0 drubbing at the Emirates in one of Lambert’s final games.
Gil was also no stranger to the odd wonder goal. His three strikes for the Villans were all memorable. The beautiful effort against Bournemouth in the Cup, the cultured finish in the capitulation at Leicester and the superb volley up at Sunderland (after a blistering run from a certain Adama Traore) served to further highlight the potential of the attacking midfielder.
Yet, it didn’t quite work out for Gil. He struggled to win the backing of Tim Sherwood, who seemed to favour pace and power going forward, and for the remainder of his Villa career he failed to truly nail down a starting berth. When Villa’s inevitable relegation finally arrived, there were few complaints with the decision to send Gil elsewhere. A number of supporters voiced the opinion that he would struggle physically in the bruising second tier.
Fast-forward 24 months. Villa prepare themselves for the play-offs and the feeling around the club is as good as it’s been in quite some time, but, for Gil, it has been a rather bleak period in his homeland. This campaign he has only made 11 appearances (having missed four months through injury at the start of the season) and, after Clarence Seedorf was handed the reins at Deportivo in February, Gil has played all of six minutes.
Whatever the cause of his troubles overseas, the quality that the Spaniard showed in B6 cannot be forgotten. In the eyes of many, Villa have had a lack of creativity for many, many years. Despite vast improvements this season, they have often looked devoid of ideas – especially in the absence of Jack Grealish pre-December. For every Burton away (in which Villa scored two superb team goals), there’s a Reading away. For every Norwich at home, there’s a Brentford at home. Gil could remedy this.
The concerns about Gil’s physicality seem somewhat misguided too. Many of the Championship’s best performers are of no great size or stature. Matej Vydra and Diogo Jota have both had terrific campaigns. Jota’s namesake at Blues has struggled at St Andrews but caused Villa all sorts of problems at Brentford. Perhaps it is not an argument relevant to modern day football.
Whatever Villa’s fate in the coming weeks, Gil’s return could be a blessing. If it all ends in disappointment for Steve Bruce and his players, surely a fully fit and confident Carles Gil would give Championship defences nightmares. And if it is to be ecstasy and Villa invest well in the Summer, Gil could thrive in the Premier League surrounded by a better quality of player than he had to work with last time out. In any case, after such a torrid time at Deportivo, Gil is unlikely to command the £3 million transfer fee that Villa paid for him three and a half years ago. Despite wage concerns, perhaps it is best to give the playmaker another crack in claret and blue.