A number of months ago, it was reported that Aston Villa had missed out on Brazilian striker Léo Bonatini as rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers snapped him up on a loan from Saudi side Al-Hilal last summer. The response from fans on Twitter suggested the Villa faithful weren’t losing sleep over the one that got away. It was outlined that the Villans could not afford the former Estoril man due to worries over Financial Fair Play. That fact alone makes this recent rumour all the more confusing.
As Financial Fair Play regulations continue to bite Aston Villa on the proverbial backside, you would think this transfer, if it had any leverage before, would now be completely off the cards. Money troubles are still riddling the Midlands side and aren’t set to be fully resolved in the near future, with the stars of last season all facing the prospect of leaving.
Bonatini’s loan deal to Wolves also features an option to purchase to the player on a permanent basis and, despite his lack of form towards the back end of last season, it wouldn’t be the worst choice for Wolves. He has an impressive tally in a number of countries and, at 24, there are still a few years until he reaches his peak. Wolves also need some depth in attack. Bonatini is sure to have a number of suitors should he not team up with Wolves again, but Aston Villa are far from likely to reel in a star from a high-paying Saudi league and with other potential suitors able to easily shell out, the Villans may have to look elsewhere. But what other strikers could Villa look at?
Moroccan forward Rachid Alioui, who plies his trade with newly-promoted Ligue 1 club Nîmes, could be a savvy option for Aston Villa. The 26-year-old scored an impressive 17 goals and made five assists in 38 games in France’s second tier last campaign but still found himself outshone by keen, young teammate Umut Bozok. Alioui, who has just one year remaining on his contract, is an accomplished free-kick taker and would be a reliable first-choice forward option, having averaged a goal every other game across the last three Ligue 2 seasons. He is also a reliable poacher, an accurate header of the ball and is not afraid to drop back or onto the wing to bring teammates into the attack.
Chatter linking Hull’s Abel Hernandez with a switch to Villa Park isn’t too silly. The Uruguayan, 27, not only knows Steve Bruce, but also knows the Championship like the back of his hand, has scored goals for fun in the division and will be available on a free transfer this summer. The striker struggled with an Achilles tendon injury last season, restricting him to just ten league appearances. Despite this, the star racked up an incredible eight goals and two assists. Since teaming up with Steve Bruce’s Hull City in 2014, he has missed 52 matches through injury but, with the likes of Scott Hogan and Jonathan Kodjia (assuming they stay) plus youngsters Rushian Hepburn-Murphy and Keinan Davis, attacking depth shouldn’t be an issue. Hernandez would be a coup for any Championship side and his bargain status makes him perfect for Aston Villa.
Another option is a familiar one. None other than Lewis Grabban. At 30, he’s a fair bit older than my other suggestions and, quite possibly, the least glamorous. However, whilst on loan with Villa for the second part of last season, Grabban really proved his worth as a solid Championship forward. Criticisms aimed at Grabban’s performances over the last few matches of last season should, for the most part be redirected to Steve Bruce. Grabban was isolated at the top of the park as the midfield sat very deep almost amongst the defence. Despite the fact it might be an idea to look for somebody younger, Lewis Grabban would be a useful addition, not just for those who like continuity, but also to regain the high spirits Villa were in during their play-off build-up.
No matter what, Villa’s squad, including the strike force that the club are ‘happy’ with, could undergo some change.