Unfortunately, there are still some fans who think we could benefit from cashing in on some of our most prized possessions. As the summer progresses, the whispered rumours about the sale of our top players become increasingly deafening. Yes, there are big bucks to be made in an Aston Villa clearout – but should we allow the loss of Gareth Barry to set any kind of trend, then we are in huge danger of becoming a selling club with no ambition. And our failure to hang on to our blossomed crop will serve only to ensure that we are doomed to another decade of mid-table mediocrity.
I’m not sure why, but in any forum I glance at, Curtis Davies is always amongst the first names on our recommended ‘players out’ list. Signed for an initial £8m by Martin O’Neill, the 25 year old defender is no mug – and I’m certain MON agrees. Starting every game last year and carrying his tremendous form into the start of this season with a goal at Anfield, some Villains have quickly forgotten how devastating the news was when it was discovered that Davies had to undergo further surgery on his shoulder and would be missing for a long time. And if reports are true, it’s no little thing that the Tottenham boss is looking to acquire the English man to boost their Champions League challenge.
The first subtle suggestion of a James Milner move has now proceeded to spread like the proverbial wildfire. Thankfully however, the boardroom were admirably quick in reacting to a £20m transfer bid with unrepentant contempt – similar to how an academic professor would flick away the annoyance of a gnat upon his steamed blazer. James Milner has made himself the rock upon which we need to build if we are to progress, and O’Neill and Lerner recognise this. Take those foundations away (like many supporters are starting to think wouldn’t be so bad) and we could very easily see the empire crumble before us. Not that I don’t have faith in MON (he moved us on from Barry-gate impeccably), but why would he want to stay at a club where he is creating potentially world class players, only to have them pinched from his hands?
Ashley Young is quickly becoming the best pound for pound (currency, not weight) player in the Premier League. Signed for what many believed was an extortionate £9.65m, our number 7 has quickly proven to be the bargain Martin O’Neill hoped he would be. As the only player to ever receive 3 Player of the Month awards in the same season, would we be able to buy a better player than the 24 year old?
As much as I want to see my compatriot, Robbie Keane, join The Villa; I will not condone his signature if it is at the expense of Gabby Agbonlahor. Maybe Keane has a bit more quality than our number 11, and of course he has that creative flair which we are so badly missing; but as I have already researched, Agbonlahor is one of our most important players (if not the most) and was directly responsible for 43% of Villa’s goals, in the games he was involved in (https://myavfc.wordpress.com/2010/06/01/the-underrated-agbonlahor/) .
To take our 23 year old jewel out of the squad, and replace him with the ageing Keane, would represent absolutely no progress at all. But to add a Robbie Keane to the ‘Gabby-effect’ is the exact step in the right direction which we are crying out for.
Although I’m expecting too much, I put forth a squad list that we could have at the club next season for under £30m. (And when you consider that Man Shitty spent £125m last season, is it really to much to ask that we try to keep up by spending 4 times as little?)
Fabio da Silva
Rafael da Silva
Nigel Reo Coker
Shaun Wright Phillips
To me, that is a squad of 22 first team players (15 British & Irish) that would give any team in Europe something to think about. A squad that could be funded to some extent by selling off our dead wood: Luke Young (I don’t want him to go but he’s not being used); Carlos Cuellar (I don’t want him on our cards as a right back); Nicky Shorey; Habib Beye; Steve Sidwell; and Emile Heskey. Obviously, it is still extremely speculative: the reserve full backs (the United twins) are dependant upon their club loaning them out for the year; and the capture of the 4 Manchester City players would take a big, big pull from everyone at the club – particularly MON (an effort that will have lost its ‘pull’ if we go ahead with the proposed sale of Davies, Milner, Young and Agbonlahor).
However, others would like the cash.
– Therefore, if we went ahead and sold off Curtis Davies, we would expect a return between £8m – £10m (he’s costly for a reason).
– If Spurs and City came hounding after O’Neill’s favourite, Ashley Young, I wouldn’t expect him to be sold for less than £20m.
– The reported Keane-Agbonlahor swap would see our Irish target arrive at Villa Park with £10m to add to our kitty.
– And of course, if we were to receive the much debated £30m for James Milner, we could fund all of my targets and then some.
That would leave our books in an extremely healthy position. We would have already acquired the 29 year old Robbie Keane and have an extra £68m to spend how we like. So couldn’t that just take care of my wish-list and improve on it?
The simple answer is “No”.
The most frightening thing is if we did this, we would negate the need to sell elsewhere, and we would probably keep Emile Heskey! If we did this, we would have to endure another season of our current number 24 struggling on the right flank (Cuellar’s a great centre back). We would have lost, what could eventually prove to be, three of the best Aston Villa players in a long, long time; and with a meek record signing for the club still standing humbly at £12m, we would be unable to replace Young, Agbonlahor and Milner (certainly not in the immediate future anyway). If we sold our assets, we should be prepared to forget about any dream of purchasing Stephen Ireland. Ireland is one of the league’s hottest properties; his stock demand will not plummet and if we launch a bid for the Irish man without the ability to hang on to players like James Milner, Ashley Young and Gabby Agbonlahor, we should expect to see Wigan Athletic attempting to lure the out-of-form Kaka at the same time.
Not only this, but other players like Wright Phillips and Richards, whilst not world beaters by any means, will not be prepared to take a step down to the level Aston Villa will be punching at. This will mean we would have to settle for inferior players: players like Scott Parker (29) and Carlton Cole (26); who are good footballers, but a definite dip in class – and who won’t come cheap.
If we could still attract Martin Petrov in the face of our ‘selling club’ status, we would be left with him and Downing on the flanks and in need of a “world class” wide midfielder like Ashley Young. Our central midfield area would be riddled with less optimistic names than those of Milner and Ireland. Instead, the older Petrov and Parker combination would be the best in the squad with Nigel Reo Coker (looking to end his last year of his contract) as our number one replacement in a declining squad. Of course, we are allegedly in the hunt for Mbark Bouffousa (whom I’m not sure of his talent) but Anderlecht are adamant that he will not be sold for £8m, rather at the “right price”. So instead of Stephen Ireland, we would have to settle for the older, unproven Morocco player (who could turn out to be a gem) for around the same price.
As I wrote that paragraph, I was trying to think of possible wingers that we could sign – but real quality outlets seem few and far between these days (at a reasonable cost). Even Zoran Tosic raised £8m, after 2 magnificent appearances, for Manchester United. It is a genuine credit that we already have 2 class wide players in our squad; but to offload the best of these (one of the best in the league) would mean we would have to either take an expensive gamble, or invest in a player for the future (which our Champions League challenge time frame wont allow for). The reality is; if we lost Young, he would be irreplaceable.
So we can sell up and raise £68m for our bank account, lose our 3 best players and our best defender, and fail to replace them. Our position at the minute does not allow us to fail. We are on the brink of success, but just above midtable apathy. Therefore, a healthy transfer budget, at the expense of our best players, is the last thing we need. What we do need; is to improve on our current progress which seen us miss out on 4th spot by two games, and come agonizingly close to cup success. We cannot afford to take a backwards step and attempt to rebuild on it. But if we do choose to take two steps back, if the fans are happy to raise more money for the transfer window, if we are willing to wave goodbye to our best players, then we must be willing to wave goodbye to our heightened expectations.