When Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens took over Aston Villa in 2018, they talked of their ambitions to ‘restore Aston Villa to the highest levels of English football’.
A particular comment from Sawiris, on how he ‘dared to bring the club back to its original glory’, has encapsulated Villans ever since.
After a whirlwind three seasons in charge, Dean Smith is beginning to build a squad capable of rocking the big-six ‘elite’.
A top-half league finish will be the aim for the Villans next season and with the introduction of the Europa Conference League, as many as the first eight finishing teams may qualify for UEFA competition.
Whilst Villa fought for those lucrative spots this season, reinforcements are clearly needed to maintain the European crusade.
Below, I’ve compiled a shortlist of realistic transfer targets I think Villa should look at signing in the 2021 summer transfer window.
Please note, this list is hypothetical and avillafan.com is not an ITK source.
Axel Tuanzebe (CB) Manchester United
At 23 years old, this former B6 favourite is yet to break into the reds XI.
In a successful second season on loan at Villa Park, Tuanzebe was a pivotal figure in the club’s 2019 promotion.
After a loan spell dwindled out due to injury during the 2017/18 campaign, Steve Bruce was given the green light to re-sign the defender in a season-long deal in summer 2018.
Tuanzebe was a permanent fixture in the Villa backline until Christmas that season when he suffered a metatarsal fracture ruling him out until the new year.
Returning for the most crucial part of the year, Tuanzebe partnered Tyrone Mings as Villa recorded ten wins in a row, as well as playing every minute of playoff action.
As for the Villa team nowadays, Dean Smith may want to bolster his options in central defence.
Despite Kortney Hause’ valiant performances when called upon, it still seems he’s a way off disrupting the centre-back partnership of Mings and Konsa.
A player of Tuanzebe’s acumen would provide stern competition for a permanent role in the defence and would add further quality to this improving unit.
However, as with any transfer, the selling club must be willing to depart with the player.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær is supposedly a big fan of the defender.
“Axel is a leader, in the ways that he works and speaks in the dressing room. And he’s only a young boy, he’s still learning his trade – I’m sure he’ll go on to have an unbelievable career”.
Adding to this, Ole told the club’s website that Tuanzebe is “the future of this club”. A statement supported by his decision to captain the player in an EFL Cup tie in 2019.
Imran Louza (CM) Nantes
Coming from a market Villa have recent experience with (signing Morgan Sanson from Olympique Marseille in January), 22-year old Imran Louza would add quality and depth to the Villa midfield.
If Conor Hourihane wishes to depart this summer, Villa are unlikely to stand in his way. With only a year remaining on his contract, the club may look to cash in on this former favourite while they still can.
If the Irishman was to be replaced by Louza, his successor has several similarities.
Both play the same position, operating primarily with the left foot, and are prominent set-piece takers.
Louza has seven goals (five penalties) and two assists this season but is utilized more as a deep-lying playmaker. By dropping back to collect the ball from goalkeeper or defender, Louza’s style of play might allow more advanced roles for John McGinn and Douglas Luiz for example.
In central-midfield, Louza is capable of playing more attacking or defensive roles. The versatility of this player may entice Villa as they look to bolster a squad projected to reach European football soon.
On Thursday, Nantes visit Toulouse in the first leg of France’s relegation play-off. With the Ligue 1 future of the Frenchman’s current club in doubt, if Nantes were relegated he may want to leave in order to retain his own top-flight status.
Samuel Chukwueze (RW) Villareal
Another 22-year old, the Nigerian winger has a bright future ahead of him.
With reported interest from across the Continent, however, Villa would do well to secure the signature of Chukwueze.
At the time of writing, Villareal are preparing to face Manchester United in the Europa League final later this week and Chukwueze may be remembered by English audiences after he was injured against Arsenal in the semi-final of the competition in April.
The hamstring injury he suffered mean he faces a race to be fit in time for the tie.
Chukwueze’s signature playstyle can be likened to that of the Villa skipper.
Ranking in the 95th percentile for progressive carries across Europe’s top five league’s, both he and Grealish utilize pace and skill to power their sides forward on the attack.
With four goals and two assists to his name this season though, Villa may want a more pertinent finisher adding quality to the squad.
Andrej Kramaric (ST) Hoffenheim
The final player on this list is the well-known Croatian striker Andrej Kramaric.
Leicester City’s record signing in 2015 (at £9 million), he may want another chance to prove himself in the English league’s after a dismal initial spell in the midlands.
A pedigree player – Kramaric is normally a regular when it comes to European football. However, Hoffenheim endured an underwhelming mid-table finish in the Bundesliga this season.
Despite the Croats 20 league goals this year (placing him fourth in the golden boot race) he may seek a new challenge.
Although turning 30 in June, Kramaric has a year remaining on his contract meaning Villa could sign the player at a cut-price.
Whether he’d settle for a probable place on the Villa bench though is critical seeming as he’s the leading striker for his current club – playing 90 minutes most weeks.
Nonetheless, Kramaric is a proven goal scorer and would offer Smith something different in a game if needed.
A seasoned European professional, signing such a renowned player would raise eyebrows across the league.
Whether any of these players are signed or not, the thinking behind transfers is clear. To maintain a serious European push next season, the club must add further depth and quality to an ever-improving squad.
The future looks bright as a new era dawns on Villa Park.