After Aston Villa’s play-off final on the 26th May ended in utter despair, it was expected that a number of the players that led us there would soon be out the door. Yet here we are, a week into July, and next to nothing has happened on the transfer front in B6. Admittedly, Jack Grealish looks destined to depart but (aside from reports linking James Chester to Stoke) transfer rumours surrounding other star men have been few and far between. This is expanded on in a comprehensive piece by Alex Carson.
One player that could well be sold as the Villa hierarchy seek to raise funds which they desperately need is Jonathan Kodjia, and reports have now emerged that suggest Championship rivals Leeds United may be interested in the Ivorian marksman. Matej Vydra has been linked with the Elland Road outfit for some time, but Kodjia is supposedly an attractive alternative.
From a Leeds perspective, the move would make a lot of sense. They had serious struggles in the latter half of last season, after a promising start to the campaign, but the managerial appointment of Marcelo Bielsa has sparked fresh optimism in fans of the Yorkshire side. With Pierre-Michel Lasogga returning to parent club Hamburg and Kemar Roofe unlikely to propel a team towards promotion on his own, Leeds are in the hunt for a quality forward. They have money to spend and the signing of Kodjia would be a major statement. After years of mediocrity, the club have flirted with promotion challenges more recently, but with two or three big additions could be the real deal this season.
For Villa, it is quite simple. They need money and Kodjia is an asset. This would never have been said a while ago, but perhaps he is not an indispensable asset. The 2017/18 campaign was memorable for the Villans (in a bittersweet way) but not one that Kodjia will look back on with fondness. A serious injury and the impressive form of loanee Lewis Grabban kept him off the pitch for large spells. When he did play, he looked a shadow of his former self – never more so than in his infuriating play-off semi-final display at the Riverside. It did seem that Steve Bruce’s men were more effective without him.
Nevertheless, the quality of the 28-year-old can hardly be called into question. Kodjia is intelligent, tricky, quick, powerful, skilful and obviously capable of finding the net. He scored 19 league goals for Villa during the 2016/17 campaign and was arguably the best forward in the division. It is no exaggeration to say he carried the team and, without him, we could well have been looking over our shoulder in terms of the Championship standings. Add to this the fact that he managed the same feat of 19 goals in the previous year at Bristol City and he may seem a world-beater. Yet, the question marks remain over his link-up play and his ability to flourish in a team that is less obviously reliant on him.
Dr Tony Xia’s ridiculously free-spending regime saw Villa part with approximately £15 million to land Kodjia. This will almost certainly be a higher asking price than Leeds or any other potential suitors will be willing to pay, especially given the bleak financial situation at Villa Park. A loss on the player is virtually inevitable (as has too often been the case in recent years) but, if he is to depart, Villa should receive a sizable sum of money.
What would we be left with? As striking options go, Scott Hogan, Keinan Davis and Rushian Hepburn-Murphy would take the baton. With a pessimistic outlook, one would see a Villa failure and two unproven youngsters, but it cannot be denied that they all offer something different and have all shown flashes of their talent. Could the proceeds of a Kodjia sale be used to invest in another star striker? Dare we hope that Ross McCormack miraculously transforms into the next goal scoring hero in claret and blue? A bit of a stretch, but perhaps it would not all be doom and gloom.
If Jonathan Kodjia does move on, it would be a strange end to his Villa career. He was the messiah 12 months ago. But, compared to the potential sales of Grealish and Chester this summer, his departure would hurt much less.