The cunning way Aston Villa can beat Spurs to land Chelsea star Conor Gallagher

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Reports suggest that Aston Villa are considering a surprising swap deal to sign Conor Gallagher - but would it work?

With Conor Gallagher currently a part of England’s training camp ahead of Euro 2024, we will likely have to wait for clarity on the future of the Chelsea midfielder – as will Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur, the two teams known to be interested in acquiring his services. But that hasn’t stopped Villa from starting formal talks ahead of a deal, according to yesterday’s report from The Guardian.

Chelsea have long been reported to want £50m for the midfielder, but with just one year left to run on his £50,000 per week contract that may prove a big ask. To complicate matters yet further, Villa are widely believed to need to sell this summer in order to ensure that they can make new signings and stay within the bounds of the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules (PSR). £50m, under such circumstances, may prove a little too rich for the blood.

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Chelsea themselves need to sell home grown players in order to balance the books, and the need the teams on both sides of the table to keep the purse strings tight will inform future negotiations – and may well serve to explain the new wrinkle in The Guardian’s article, which also claims that Villa are considering packaging Colombian striker Jhon Durán into the bargain.

Chelsea have, apparently, been monitoring the 20-year-old forward since January. He fits the youthful, technical profile of the players they want to recruit, and they are openly casting around for reinforcements for the front line – reports elsewhere have hinted that they may move away from the idea of bidding for a superstar forward like Victor Osimhen and instead look towards a younger player who can provide competition for Nicolas Jackson, who impressed towards the end of a roller coaster first season at Stamford Bridge.

Durán cost Villa an initial £14.75m when he was signed from American side Chicago Fire at the beginning of last year, with up to £3m in add-ons, but has failed to nail down a starting spot at Villa Park with Ollie Watkins dominating the lone striker role – nevertheless, Durán scored five goals in just 475 minutes of Premier League action during the 2023/24 season, the equivalent to just under a goal every 90 minutes, with his finest hour being a late double strike to earn an improbable draw against Liverpool in May.

While patently a talented player, he is also arguably surplus to requirements at Villa Park given Watkins’ consistent excellence – his value to the club hinges on his potential for the future, not the qualities he offers right now. The same is true for Chelsea to an extent, but with Jackson’s place not yet assured and Christopher Nkunku persistently injured thus far, Durán may well get more chances at Stamford Bridge than he would at his current club.

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Assigning a value to the player is challenging. Valued at £20m when signed from the MLS, players moving within the Premier League usually have a premium attached to their price, but on the other hand Durán has not been afforded the opportunity to prove his worth as being any higher or lower than it was worth when he first arrived. He remains a question mark with a theoretically exciting future.

But if a deal could be brokered between the two clubs – and given widespread reports that Chelsea are considering a bid for RB Leipzig forward Benjamin Šeško, it doesn’t seem to be a given that Durán is a priority of any kind – would Chelsea be getting enough out of the deal?

On the one hand, it solves the problem, or at least the problem as Behdad Eghbali appears to see it – Chelsea make some pure profit from a home-grown player to help comply with the PSR rules and get a warm body up front in case Jackson goes back off the boil or Nkunku spends more time on the treatment table. In the meantime, they get to reallocate the funds earmarked for Osimhen to more pressing needs in defence.

You’d also imagine that opting to sell Gallagher to Villa, rather than fierce rivals Spurs, would go a long way in appeasing Chelsea fans who are reluctant to see another academy product leave the club prematurely.

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But on the flip side, they would be losing a proven performer and dressing room leader for what could amount to a very small financial gain if Durán doesn’t come good. The question is whether the Colombia international can make enough of a difference to be worth the trade for a guaranteed starting-level player like Gallagher. He’s proven himself to be good enough for the Colombian and American leagues as a teenager, but his career, as yet, still amounts to no more than a promising start. It would be one hell of a gamble.

From Aston Villa’s perspective, it’s a case of getting a known quantity over opening the mystery box - although, if they’re already happy to move him on, perhaps the peep inside that they’ve had didn’t prove all that exciting. Villa need an extra man in midfield with Boubacar Kamara recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury and Douglas Luiz a possible subject of big-money bids this summer. For them, the deal makes more sense or is at least much less risky. And as for Spurs? Well, they’ll need to get the chequebook out. And who knows, perhaps Chelsea are quietly really keen on Pierre-Emile Højbjerg or something... Guessing their transfer targets in advance is a challenging task, after all.

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