Aston Villa might have already completed their most important piece of business this summer

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Aston Villa have their sights set on a bright future after a highly impressive 2023/24 campaign so far

Goal difference alone; that is all that separated Aston Villa from the relegation zone when Unai Emery arrived at the club in the wake of Steven Gerrard’s sacking back in 2022. Less than two years later, and, presuming Tottenham Hotspur win their two games in hand, the Villans will once again be keeping a beady eye on the column marked ‘GD’ in the coming weeks - only this time, there is a spot in the Champions League at stake.

It is, when you stop to properly consider it, one of the most remarkable stories that European football has seen over the past couple of seasons. It might not boast the requisite silverware (just yet) or sprinkling of an underdog status to properly etch itself into the affections of many casual observers, but Emery has transformed Villa, and deserves immense credit for doing so.

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And he’s only just getting started too. Earlier this week, it was confirmed that the Spaniard has had a one-year extension option triggered in his contract in the Midlands that will keep him at Villa until 2027, at least. Based on their current rate of progression, they could be champions of the solar system by then. From there, it is thought that the Villans’ co-owners, Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, plan further talks this summer with view to keeping him around for even longer. Speaking about his contentment in typically understated fashion following Sunday’s win over Bournemouth, Emery said: ‘I am focused here, 100%.’

But make no mistake, while the man himself is not prone to lavish outpourings or wild proclamations, this is, in every sense, a notable coup for Villa. In recent weeks, with Thomas Tuchel leaving and number one target Xabi Alonso outlining his intentions to remain at Bayer Leverkusen next season, Bayern Munich have reportedly started to circle with view to prising Emery away from Villa Park. Some have even suggested that Catalan giants Barcelona are monitoring his situation closely.

That is the calibre of manager the Emery truly is, and for Villa - a huge club, granted, but one who have spent an awful lot of time in seasons past traipsing through the doldrums - to be able to retain his services for the foreseeable future is a considerable statement of intent.

The understanding is that Emery has been handed something close to full autonomy at Villa Park, and with the summer transfer window approaching rapidly, what clearer message of ambition could those in the boardroom send to their supporters than guaranteeing that the footballing brain who has brought them this far already will still be around to oversee their activity in the market in the weeks and months to come?

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To that end, it is no exaggeration to suggest that Emery’s contract extension may be the most important piece of business that Villa conduct this summer - and they have sealed it before the window has even opened.

The likelihood is that we are on the cusp of another busy period of recruitment at Villa Park, but regardless of who the Villans do or do no sign, they can at least rest assured in the knowledge that the man pulling the strings is the right one for the job.

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