The game-changing bargain transfer that could see Aston Villa claim Europa Conference League glory next season

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Aston Villa will be embarking on a European adventure next season, and they could seal a bargain transfer to aid their push for glory.

Aston Villa are clearly an ambitious club. The second wind which Unai Emery blew through the gates at Villa Park has seen them qualify for the Europa Conference League, their first continental adventure since 2010 – and the Villa board are clearly keen that this should not be a flash in the pan.

The list of players with which Villa have been linked is impressive – Ferran Torres, Pau Torres, Dušan Vlahović and James Ward-Prowse have all been mooted as possible summer arrivals. Such signings would be expensive, but would also serve as statements of intent as the Midlands side seek to channel the spirit of a wiry little terrier snapping at the heels of the bigger dogs.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But one of the best signings they could make – and one of the biggest statements, if they could pull it off – wouldn’t cost a penny, at least past contractual obligations. Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio is available at the end of his contract, and with theoretically bigger clubs circling, Villa’s interest is proof of a club ready to tangle with the superclubs in pursuit of star players who could elevate the team.

Getty Images

Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain are also reported to be in talks with Asensio, alongside Villa. To make the transfer work, they will either have to pay the Spaniard exceptionally well or sell him on the chance to be the star man in an upwardly-mobile project – but they are in talks themselves and seem confident that they can make the sales pitch stick.

The absence of a transfer fee isn’t the only reason that Villa fans should be excited about the prospect of Asensio strutting his stuff at Villa Park – he’s also an exceptional player. He scored 12 goals and registered seven assists with Real Madrid this season, despite being a rotation player at best with Rodrygo ahead of him in the pecking order. Compare that to Ferran Torres, at eventual champions Barcelona – seven goals and three assists, from only slightly less game time. And he would cost anything up to £40m straight off the bat.

Which isn’t to suggest Torres wouldn’t be an exciting signing, nor that he isn’t worth the money. We’ve all seen him impress at Manchester City – albeit in a side set up to allow almost any competent player the time and space to show off their skills. But Asensio is better, more efficient, more economical, and more dangerous in the final third. And, to repeat, he’s free.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Someone will get a serious bargain this summer – and it could well be Villa. Asensio has stated that he wants to leave less because of the money on offer and more because he wants the chance to be a star player, not a small cog in a colossal machine. At Arsenal he would be in direct competition with Bukayo Saka for his favoured inside-forward role – at PSG he will be eclipsed by Kylian Mbappé and company no matter how well he plays. At Villa, he would be the best player in the squad almost immediately, and a clear upgrade on current options – with no disrespect intended to Leon Bailey.

The 4-4-2 formation that Villa have adopted for much of the campaign will likely go out of the window if Asensio signs – but they have also played in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which would suit Asensio just fine, even if a deep double pivot would be create a different beat to the creative hub of Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos that he’s used to operating with. If you sign a player of that class, you accommodate him – and it isn’t exactly asking for a huge change-up at Bodymoor Heath.

It’s hard to find a metric where Asensio doesn’t outshine Torres, or indeed any other right-sided forward that Villa could feasibly lay their hands on. He’s a better passer, with a wider range. He scores more and creates more chances, outstripping his xG where Torres falls short of his. He’s a better ball-carrier, passing his man almost half as often again as the Barcelona man and gaining more ground per game by an even larger margin. He’s even a better tackler, even if he isn’t setting any records for turnovers in dangerous areas.

He’s a little older, perhaps, but at 27 is still in his salad years, with a few more to come. And he’s a proven winner, although anyone who stays at Real for a decent length of time will be able to call themselves that. If Aston Villa are serious about transmogrifying their team into one that can seriously challenge for the top four over the coming seasons, he would be the ideal signing – not to mention that his arrival would free up the transfer budget for other stellar additions.

We want your feedback on 3 Added Minutes - details here

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

These are exciting times to be a Villa fan – perhaps that second win that lifted them to seventh will carry them too close to the sun, and perhaps Emery’s wings will be clipped as clubs like Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur put their mistakes behind them, carried forward on a wave of cash that Villa can’t match. But in an era when too few football clubs seem able to punch above their weight, it’s good to see one of them trying to beef up rather than consolidate. Aston Villa aren’t heavyweights yet – but if they sign Asensio, they’ll pack more of a punch than they have this season. They should move heaven and earth to get their man.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.