Emiliano Buendía Villa Bound
There’s no doubt the focus of this summer’s transfer window was about further improving the quality of the first XI for Aston Villa to challenge at the top end of the Premier League, and it seems Villa aren’t waiting around to get that process underway. Reports are suggesting Villa are in pole position to sign Norwich City’s Argentine attacking midfield sensation Emiliano Buendía, despite initial interest from Arsenal.
Having pipped Spurs to Ollie Watkins last summer, it seems Villa will do a double over North London clubs in getting the Championship’s top performers of the previous two seasons. It’s certainly a statement of intent and an indication of the prowess and intention of Villa’s owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens.
The Daily Mirror initially broke the story that the initial fee for Buendía will be around £33m-35m (with add-ons potentially rising to £40m). They’ll also be a sell-on clause, in what will eclipse the signing of Ollie Watkins as Villa’s record signing.
With personal terms reportedly agreed, the player should have completed a medical in Argentina by the time you read this, where he currently is with the Argentine national team. Villa’s keeper Emiliano Martínez is also on international duty with him and no doubt had a positive influence on Buendía’s decision.
Infamously, at half-time of a Barcelona vs Getafe game, Lionel Messi asked the then 18-year-old Buendía, whether he wanted to represent Spain or Argentina at international level. Despite already representing Spain at youth level, Buendía told Messi his dream was to play with him in the Argentine team.
Villa will certainly be hoping they are obtaining a chip off the old Messi block.
It’s thought Villa have been tracking the Norwich City midfielder for several seasons now.
Buendía scored 15 goals and registered 16 assists in the second tier last season, creating more chances than any other player in the Championship. Importantly, Buendia has a season’s worth of Premier League experience under his belt for Norwich. He notched up four assists in the first five games of the Cannaries 2019/20 season in the top tier, and matched Grealish in terms of his stats for creating chances. This is while being in a team that were relegated with barely a whimper.
Of course, there is a danger for supporters to get giddy over any new signing and forget about the overall team picture, until hindsight provides it.
With Buendía, the only concern would be Smith getting the midfield balance right. Teamed with Grealish and Traore, the Argentine would give Villa an exciting creative spark going forward, in a line-up that would certainly get the best out of Watkins, but how does that leave the Villa midfield defensively?
In games last season against the likes of Leeds United and Brighton, Villa were out-worked and bullied in the middle of the park, so this is something Smith will have to consider. How does he balance that out and give the midfield some steel and a foundation for Grealish and their incoming signing to do their thing?
For a player that cost Norwich City just £1.5m, like Watkins before him, Villa will consider they have paid a little over what they’d have ideally liked to have paid, but when prising such talent from the bigger Premier League clubs, the first thing you have to do is out bid them.
In as recent interview with The Guardian newspaper, Smith hinted that Villa were actively going to address Villa’s attacking struggles if either Jack Grealish is absent or shackled.
“We dropped off massively when Jack came out of the team in terms of our creativity,” reasoned Smith.
“So we know that is an area we must improve on to help Jack when is playing or if he has to miss a game or two.”
Also, the true potential of Grealish is harnessed when he has a talented foil to play with. Ross Barkley, in the early weeks of the season at least, certainly helped lift the Villa captain to another level.
It’s no secret that this summer’s transfer window was about bringing in some a two or three quality players that would upgrade the first XI.
“We feel again let’s go and get quality over quantity,” said Smith, in The Guardian interview.
“We proved last season with the ones we got in – Ollie Watkins, Emi Martínez, Bertrand Traoré and Matt Cash – that we were quite astute. Hopefully we can do more of the same.”
It’s certainly hoped now that Buendía’s previous telepathic understanding with Teemu Pukki at Norwich (see highlights reel above), can be replicated and mirrored at Villa with Ollie Watkins.
If so, couple that with a potentially salivating midfield combination with Grealish, and calling the signing ‘astute’ might soon become an understatement.