By Camden Bauman
Aston Villa this week confirmed signing of Brazilian forward Wesley Moraes, better known as Wesley, from Club Brugge in Belgium. Although, as the club states, the deal is still subject to a work permit and international clearance.
The fee is rumoured to be around just north of £20 million, which will potentially break Aston Villa’s previous record transfer of £18 million initial fee + add-ons for Darren Bent in 2011.
With Tammy Abraham’s future looking likely to be at Chelsea and with there still doubts over his Premier League credentials anyway, a new striker (or two) was at the very top of the Villa summer shopping list alongside the purchasing of Tyrone Mings.
The 6’3 forward had previously been linked with Arsenal prior to the January transfer window and has been more recently linked with moves to Lazio and Newcastle.
The transfer when it happened seemingly exploded onto social media overnight, although it seems to be the transfer that Villa CEO Christian Purslow was in the final stages of completing when MOMS met him as part of the Fan Consultation Group (FCG) on Tuesday evening.
The player was keen to come, but the Villa CEO had to finalise some details with him after the FCG meeting.
Below we look at what the Brazilian forward can bring to Villa Park and what makes Dean Smith and company believe he is Villa’s striker for the future.
Who is He?
The 22-year old forward started his career at Itabuna Esporte Clube (BA) in Brazil before moving to Slovakian club AS Trencin in 2015. In just six months in Slovakia, he made 22 appearances where he scored eight goals and added five assists at the age of 18.
In January of 2016, he was on his way to Belgium for a transfer fee of €1 million to Club Brugge. In his three years in Belgium, he amassed 130 appearances with 38 goals, with this past season being his most prolific as he scored 17 goals with 10 assists.
Because of the Belgian club connection, the first instinct of many a Villa fan is to compare Wesley to Christian Benteke and there are many similarities. When Benteke was bought by Villa from Belgium club Genk, he was a tall, promising, and a physically strong striker who was known for being a target man with goals in him.
Like Benteke, Wesley’s awareness, sharpness and movement are brilliant for a player of his size, as seen from his hat-trick against Gent last September (see video below). He can slide in behind defenses and find space in the box. He even shows good awareness of play when he has his back to goal.
Wesley works hard, likes to get involved and is used to playing the high press playing at Club Brugge, which no doubt ticked a box for Smith.
One observation that has been made about Wesley is that he looks “clunky” and awkward when running, but he still possesses good speed, coupled with the strength to out hustle and shrug off opposition defenders when breaking through defensive lines.
In terms of improvement, he’s said by Club Brugges fans to often dribble with his head down, but the main concern seems to be his temperament. Wesley picked up 15 yellow cards and two red cards in his three seasons with Club Brugge, with seven yellows and one red this past season.
Having such fire can be a positive though, if controlled.Embed from Getty Images
Does He Fit In?
Despite the comparisons to Benteke, one obvious question is whether he’s an upgrade on Tammy Abraham for the Premier League?
Abraham did offer a complete set of qualities in playing the lone striker with great work rate, decent speed and he tended to connect up well with his teammates and help Villa play as a team.
Abraham turned in 26 goals playing as the lone striker in the Championship, but seemed to be found out in the later part of the season and despite his height, he was pushed around by the stronger central defenders in the Championship, as seen in the play-off final going up against Fikayo Tomori and Richard Keogh of Derby County.
Wesley it seems potentially offers Villa a more physical presence up top. He’s a lot more filled out at 6’3 and looks capable of holding off defenders to beat them to through balls, as well as being more of a presence on the end of set pieces.
With Dean Smith’s attack-oriented 4-3-3, Wesley potentially fits well into the mould of the kind of striker needed to succeed. For Aston Villa to spend this amount of money on a forward, it shows that their Sporting Director Jesús García Pitarch and Dean Smith have found their striker for this upcoming season and the immediate future.
At £22 million for a single player, Aston Villa are signalling, as CEO Christian Purslow declared in the recent FCG meeting, that they intend to do more than simply stay in the Premier League.
Follow Camden on Twitter here @CamdenBauman