Aston Villa’s remarkable £99m upcoming January transfer window - as predicted by Football Manager 2023
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Aston Villa have enjoyed a productive summer transfer window after Unai Emery added some high profile faces to his squad.
The former Arsenal manager saw off competition from elsewhere to land Bayer Leverkusen’s in-demand winger Moussa Diaby and shocked many by returning to former club Villarreal to secure Spanish international defender Pau Torres. Barcelona centre-back Clement Llenglet and Galatasaray forward Nicolo Zaniolo both arrived on loan deals and Youri Tielemans was snapped up on a free transfer after he left Leicester City following their relegation into the Championship.
But what comes next for Emery? And how could he build on that impressive business when the January transfer window opens? We fired up Football Manager 2023 to see what the world’s most popular management simulation thinks things will play out for the Villa boss.
To set the scene at this virtual Villa Park, Emery’s men are sat in sixth place in the Premier League table and have claimed eye-catching wins over treble winners Manchester City, Newcastle United and a Liverpool side that were unbeaten before Ollie Watkins scored twice in a 3-1 win at Anfield.
There is a need to strengthen further to continue the momentum that has been built during the first half of the season - and there were five new additions as the Villa board backed Emery once again. However, it is one shock departure that dominated the headlines in the first week of the new year.
Striker tempted away by Serie A giants
Perhaps it was his brace at Anfield, scoring twice on international duty with England or the 12 Premier League goals he scored in the opening four months of the window - but there should be little surprise to see Watkins leaving Villa Park within three days of the January transfer window opening.
The in-form striker had the inevitable, dreaded ‘Wnt’ (wanted by another club) icon beside his name from October onwards as some of European football’s biggest clubs eyed a move for the England star. Inter Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla all showed an interest - but it was Juventus that won the race for his services after they handed over £53 million to get the deal done.
It left a sizable hole in the Villa frontline - but it would soon be filled.
A replacement arrives within a week
The cash must have been burning a hole in Emery’s pocket as the Villa boss did not waste too much time to replace Watkins following his departure.
Just a week has passed when the Spaniard returned to former club Sevilla to complete a £37.5m move for Morocco international Youseff En-Nesyri. The striker had interest from clubs in Serie A and the Premier League but he stepped into the void to replace Watkins after accepting an offer to join Villa.
Emery adds more firepower
En-Nesyri was not the only forward to arrive during the window as Emery delved into the Championship to secure a loan deal for Leicester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho before turning his attention to bringing in a winger.
Patience was required as two further additions did not arrive until the last three days of the window as Liverpool’s Diogo Jota arrived in a £35m move and he was followed by Benfica’s David Neres, who cost a further £31m. That ensured Emery went into the second half of the campaign with a new look forward line and more quality in depth at the top end of the pitch.
Squad players move on!
Watkins was not the only departure from Villa Park but he was the most important as Emery took the chance to allow some of his squad players to find pastures new.
Leander Dendoncker had not made a Premier League start during the season before he was allowed to join Spanish club Mallorca on loan and Philippe Coutinho completed a permanent transfer to Turkish side Besiktas. Callum Chambers was snapped up by Brentford in a £7.5m deal and Bertrand Traore headed to France to join Marseille for a further £10m.