World Cup Worries
There was one concern for Aston Villa supporters in the months leading up to the World Cup in Brazil. Were we going to see the last of Christian Benteke? If Benteke impressed in Brazil, Villa would have the best possible window of opportunity to cash in on the Belgian forward. Lerner would have gleefully banked £30 million-plus, prior to the club’s sale. As it turned out, Benteke’s injury put paid to that. In terms of the World Cup, Ron Vlaar would be Villa’s main first team international representation.
There’s a school of thought that Vlaar due to being injury-prone earlier in his career, missed out on the chance of playing at one of Europe’s top clubs. Villa were willing to take a chance on him, in a similar way to which they had enlisted the services of Paul McGrath and Martin Laursen in the past. Vlaar wasn’t a mainstay in the Dutch international team before the World Cup. The Villa captain returning from Brazil and signing a new contract seemed liked a formality. He wasn’t expected to be away for long either. This was a far from a vintage Holland team going to Brazil and they potentially would struggle to get out of a group that boasted the reigning World Champions Spain and an impressive Chile team.
Ron Vlaar stepped up though to be heralded as one of the best centre-backs of the tournament. He helped the Dutch blaze through the group stages with a 100% record dismantling Spain along the way. Then he helped them perform a houdini act against Mexico and squeeze out the plucky Costa Rican threat. Once settled the Holland back three registered three consecutive clean sheets in the knock-out stages, with a standout colossus performance by Vlaar in snuffing out the threat of Messi in the semi-final. It was a 120 minute performance that probably added a couple of million to the Villa captain’s transfer fee.
In the biggest shop window in football, Vlaar has suddenly found himself front and centre
Vlaar’s Villa Park return?
By the time Vlaar touches back down in the UK after the tournament, he would have received numerous offers from top European clubs. At the age of 29-years-old, his next move will be a defining one in his career. Very much in his prime as a defender, no doubt his agent will be suggesting he should be playing Champions League football.
It’s hard to find reasons for him to want to stay at Villa under the current climate where everything from chairman down is in an interim limbo. Despite the single year on his contract, Villa could expect to make a profit on the three million odd fee they paid. That would be too much for Lerner to resist.
At the level Villa are operating at in the transfer market, they will probably see Philippe Senderos as Vlaar’s ready-made replacement. Villa supporters would beg to differ and they would be right to. You just have to compare the two centre-back’s World Cups to get a fair reflection of the difference in the two players. Look what happened to Switzerland when Senderos came on for them against France. He was never seen in the tournament again.
Vlaar by his own admission may have been less than convincing in his first season at Villa and also suffered from Jores Okore’s injury last season, but with the return of the Dane, his best season for Villa is ahead of him. The added pressure of anchoring a youthful and inexperienced backline in the past couple of seasons would make any defender look ordinary. That’s not Vlaar’s fault, but his manager’s.
At the moment, it’s difficult to predict what will happen to Villa next season. Naturally as a fan, despite the turbulent clouds above the club, you approach every new season with fresh optimism. If Vlaar decides to leave and Senderos is his only replacement, then Lerner is seriously gambling with the future of the club. If the club struggles at the beginning of the season, potential buyers won’t be queuing up. His asset striping of the club with Poundland replacements could come back to seriously bite the Villa chairman in the pocket, leaving him with a Championship club on his hands devoid of Premier League TV money that is the club’s prime asset.
There was a key moment at Villa’s final home game last season. After the match against Hull had finished, in the lap of honour that followed, the Villa captain spotted in the Holte the giant Vlaar shirt the Brigada 1874 Ultras had made in his honour, crouching down he got his kids attention and pointed to the shirt. In an ideal world you’d hope that Vlaar will get sentimental and see the efforts of the Brigada, as a symbol he is loved at Villa Park and stay on. In reality, it would take a decent pay increase and the club somehow persuading him they have some ambition for the immediate future.
Lets hope the giant shirt doesn’t end up as a premature goodbye gesture and can’t be used next season. UTV