By Liam Scahill
A football club’s transfer business in the modern era can often define the destiny of a footballing institution for many a year.
Villa at the commencements of both the Randy Lerner and Dr Tony Xia eras respectively, signed a multitude of players at a ferocious rate, infused with more than a shade of bullish bravado.
Following the coming of the new dawn under Xia, players were recruited with blood-headed bluster, as the club set about on a charge back to the holy grail of the Premier League.
With such an approach, quite often due diligence takes a back seat or no seat at all, chaos can ensue when a club attempts to infuse several innate talents into the footballing cauldron.
The club’s feted transfer policy in recent times has failed to pay dividends yet with Villa lingering in the play-off spots despite outspending all around them.
Events can be bent to fit interpretation, especially when observers view Aston Villa’s player recruitment under the shroud of tribal loyalty.
Partisan loyalty will always distort viewpoints but essentially it is hard to envisage a scenario where one can analytically view Villa’s transfer business in recent times and conclude the club has been shrewd.
Take for example the outlay on Villa strikers, often seen as the essential ingredient to get out of the Championship. During the club’s time in the Championship, in the region of £30m was spent on Jonathan Kodjia, Ross McCormack and Scott Hogan, yet their combined total of goals for this season, 27 games in, is just three.
Yes, Scott Hogan’s two goals in the last two Villa games has doubled what £30m worth of strikers scored in the previous 25 games.
The failure and complete lack of contribution of many players at the club is indicative of Villa’s broader struggles and under-performers on the pitch at times in recent seasons.
Acquisitions such as Pierluigi Gollini, Micah Richards, Tommy Elphick, Ritchie De Laet, Aaron Tshibola, Birkir Bjarnason, Scott Hogan and Ross McCormack, for example, have thus far for all intents and purposes failed to live up to their billings. Some have also come into the club on inflated transfer fees too.
Couple these deals with the enigma that is Gabriel Agbonlahor, who seems to gather wages in combination with guest appearances at derby games for a living, and its plain to see why Villa’s transfer business this window will be thin on the ground apart from loan signings.
With domestic and UEFA financial regulations, clubs are prevented from spending much more than they earn. In practice, this results in individual spending caps for each team. Some teams are more creative than others when it comes to bending the rules.
The hegemonic spending power of Villa over rival clubs in the Sky Bet Championship has not directly translated to the league table.
Midland neighbours Wolverhampton Wanders and Derby County are currently sitting pretty in the automatic promotion places.
Yes, the race is not over, and Villa can still snatch an automatic top two place, but lessons need to be learnt by the club to ensure future success.
The B6 club will not always have the luxury of being able to outspend their rivals to the extent they have in the Championship, especially if a return to the top table of English football is realised.
‘Scott Hogan’s two goals in the last two Villa games has doubled what £30m worth of strikers scored in the previous 25 games’
Money will not always guarantee success in the footballing world, but transfer models can be admired, even duplicated.
AS Monaco in Ligue 1 this season, lost superstars such as Kylian Mbappé, Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, Tiemoué Bakayoko and Allan Saint-Maximin.
Did the wheels come off the AS Monaco project? Not to date, they absorbed the departures and have recruited astutely whilst making money in the process.
Youthful prospects have been recruited in the form of Keita Baldé, Youri Tielemans and Terence Kongolo, for example.
The story of Monaco’s development and their radical change in direction is well-known now. They famously spent a rumoured €165million on players in the summer of 2013, signing the likes of Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho.
But nowadays they essentially buy low and sell high, the club makes a profit on the hardest investment portfolio of all in this life, footballers.
In short, they’ve had to change their business model.
Anthony Martial is another high-profile example of their success. The current Manchester United player was plucked from nowhere for a miniscule €2million fee from Olympique Lyonnais, when he was a teenager in a state of flux between the academy and the first team.
Martial was coached, nurtured and cultivated into a footballer under the tutelage of Leonardo Jardim then sold to United for a fee that could supposedly rise to €80m with add-ons.
Villa don’t need to become a selling club and Monaco may not be perfect, but they display an uncanny ability to utilise a modern-day transfer market and an academy to their benefit, which is a far cry from the world of financial wastefulness Villa have populated over the years.
Prospects Dimitri Sea and Colin Odutayo were recruited by Villa over the summer, two youthful players rumoured to have potential. Sea arrived from France, which may signify the club is now casting the net far and wide in a bid to secure young talent.
Fans and owner Doctor Tony Xia will hope some relatively unknown rough gems can be sourced in the future akin to Christian Benteke in the past, who can help the club reach the next level at a reasonable price.
Of course, promotion is key for any future new transfer policy and its pursuit of buying longer-term prospects to build the foundations for the club going forward.
Currently, in view of Villa’s current position and obvious goal, a potential player has to be good enough for the Premier League, yet willing to play in the Championship. It’s a tricky equation to satisfy, hence Bruce’s current penchant for a loan deal.
With the new ownership’s short-term transfer policy geared to quick promotion, whatever fate will be served up at the end of the season for the club, this coming summer will certainly be time for an evolution of Villa’s recent transfer policy.
Follow Liam on Twitter at @Sir_Scatman