Tactical Insights

Aston Villa in pole position after Emery pushes for £50m+ Barcelona target

Aston Villa could be set to make a real statement this summer after it appears Unai Emery has won over the transfer directors at the club in his pursuit of one man.

Villa on the verge

A 1-0 defeat to Brighton in between two losses to Olympiacos to knock them out of the Europa Conference League has left Aston Villa reeling somewhat, but they are still on the verge of creating history.

They need one point from their final two Premier League outings (against Liverpool and a trip to a rejuvenated Crystal Palace) to ensure that they are playing Champions League football next season for the first time ever (in its current format), while their status could be confirmed even if they lose both of their games should Tottenham lose to Manchester City on Tuesday evening.

It marks a drastic turnaround since Emery’s arrival, which saw the club sitting 17th and only out of the relegation zone on goal difference. He has been rewarded with a new contract at Villa Park, which makes him the highest paid manager in their history, and there are high hopes for the future.

Now, they are looking to capitalise this summer by making some statement additions, having already broken their transfer record with the Spaniard at the helm. There remain financial fair play concerns after posting hefty losses, but should they be able to sidestep those this summer, they are expected to spend heavily, and Emery has identified his top target.

Emery targets reunion with star midfielder

That player comes in the form of Alex Baena, the 22-year-old midfielder from Emery’s former side Villarreal. The Spaniard is also thought to be on the radar of Barcelona, and has a 60m euro (£52m) release clause in his contract with the Yellow Submarine, though it is expected that should he be sold it may be for less.

He has enjoyed another excellent campaign with the Spanish outfit, grabbing 2 goals and 13 assists in 32 La Liga outings, and has attracted plenty of admirers. But it is Villa who are now on pole for his signature, according to a recent report coming out of Spain.

Aston Villa’s permanent signings under Unai Emery



Moussa Diaby


Pau Torres


Jhon Duran


Alex Moreno


Morgan Rogers


Youri Tielemans


Emery has reportedly “convinced Aston Villa Sporting Director Monchi” that the midfielder would be a good addition to the Midlands outfit, and they will “make an approach” for him in the upcoming summer transfer window.

They are keen to “negotiate a deal for a lower price”, but could end up simply activating the star’s release clause if they “can’t convince” Villarreal to let him go for less. Either way, they are now ahead of Barca in the race for the playmaker.


Were they to get it done around his release clause, it would be a new-club record signing, overtaking the arrival of Moussa Diaby last summer, and would be a strong signal of their intent to continue climbing the Premier League next season.

Barca, meanwhile, would have to sell players first or offer players in part-exchange to make a deal happen, something that gives Villa a major advantage in the race for the Spaniard.

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