Aston Villa’s transfer business has been the envy of mid-table Premier League clubs this summer – even with the departure of Jack Grealish to Manchester City.
The Villans have not rested on their laurels, wallowing in the loss of a genuine superstar. Rather, they have rallied, reinvesting that cash into attractive areas of the squad, with smart, sensible additions.
Emi Buendia was first through the door in a £35 million deal from Norwich City – bolstering Dean Smith’s wide options which already boast Anwar El Ghazi and Bertrand Traore.
Bayer Leverkusen’s Leon Bailey was next to arrive, an exciting winger with goalscoring and goal-creating pedigree; he and Buendia both under 25 years old.
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, Danny Ings was unveiled as an Aston Villa player – to the surprise of Southampton fans, journalists and even players.
Speaking following a pre-season friendly at St Mary’s Stadium last night, Oriol Romeu stated the first the players had heard of Ings’ departure was Villa’s announcement.
Their transfer spending so far has totalled roughly £100 million – the same fee they are expected to receive for Jack Grealish.
Todd Cantwell and Axel Tuanzebe appear next on Director of Football Johan Lange’s hit-list, much to the envy of Leeds United and other clubs around them, who still await positive news on the potential addition of a central midfielder.
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But, there is one crucial element the Midlands club still lack despite their aggressive signing spree – and it isn’t Jack Grealish.
Of the clubs who finished the 2020/21 Premier League season in mid-table, few can boast a manager of Marcelo Bielsa’s standing. Even fewer throughout the league can claim their head coach has untouchable status.
At Leeds, that seems to be the case, with Bielsa’s word gospel at Elland Road and Thorp Arch.
The Argentine has commended Andrea Radrizzani for his generosity in plying Bielsa and his squad with whatever he requires – and the Italian has been forthcoming.
Rarely are there disputes of any sort, disagreements or grievances aired between the ownership, recruitment structure and coaching setup – everything appears well-aligned.
Two hours down the M1 though, the landscape could be very different come November or December.
Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa and Aston Villa manager Dean Smith
When push comes to shove, if Dean Smith cannot get his attractive, new-look side playing the kind of football that will challenge the Premier League’s status quo, questions will be asked of him.
While the born-and-bred Villa fan deserves credit for bringing the side back from the brink, as well as consolidating their position in the Premier League, he is – as the vast majority of managers are – expendable.
With the wealth of talent at their disposal, an ambitious recruitment setup and promising young players coming through such as Carney Chukwuemeka and Louie Barry, the Villa job is one of the most tantalising in the Premier League.
Plenty out-of-work managers, both British and international, will likely have their agents draw attention to the situation at Villa Park if the beginning of the season does not yield positive results.
At Leeds, £100 million may not have been spent this summer, but the club retain Bielsa and the incredible added value he brings.
The Argentine inspires unity within the fanbase and the belief that a team still punctuated by his Championship regulars, can once again topple some of English football’s biggest names.
If the market for football managers was in any way reflective of the market for players, even at 66 years-old, Bielsa would still be one of the most expensive around.
It is incredibly difficult to put a price on what he has already achieved with Leeds United, and no amount of luxury additions will match that.