Melbourne City have confirmed the season-loan transfer of Ritchie De Laet, who despite a promising pre-season with Aston Villa, failed to force his way into Steve Bruce’s plans (whatever they are).
As with most Aston Villa outgoing loans, it’s expected Villa will still pay a considerable percentage of De Laet’s wages while he’s out in Australia.
The Belgian right-back won a Championship title medal with Leicester City, and then also won promotion from the division while on loan with Middlesbrough. But despite such experiences, he’s once again deemed surplus to requirements at Villa.
Notably, De Laet follows in the footsteps of Tommy Elphick, who also won a Championship title medal with Bournemouth before joining Villa. Elphick was loaned out to Hull City despite it leaving Villa with just one centre back in James Chester.
It almost begs the question, does Bruce have something against players that have won the Championship title? Something he has failed to do as a manager.
— Melbourne City FC 🏙️ (@MelbourneCity) September 14, 2018
De Laet joins an increasing list of players that mysteriously seem to lose their ability once they join Villa. Surely Ross McCormack (who also went out on loan to Melbourne City last season), De Laet and Elphick were good enough to feature in a Villa squad that would be challenging for promotion in this division?
Is it poor management, or the fact the player’s hunger seems to drop after receiving a career best wage deal from Villa?
De Laet did seem to be very much focused for this season, judging by what MOMS saw of him in preseason. Certainly Axel Tuanzebe or Ahmed Elmohamady had not been drastically any better.
Again, Bruce would rather pay more wages by getting in the inexperienced Axel Tuanzebe, than using either his own young signing James Bree or a proven Championship winner in De Laet (lets not forget he’s also got a Premier League winner’s medal for Leicester).
Going on loan to Melbourne City is a reunion of sorts for De Laet, with their coach Warren Joyce, who actually gave him his professional debut when he was a 16-year-old at Royal Antwerp, when Joyce coached the Belgian side.
“Ritchie’s quality and versatility provides us with a number of options,” said Joyce, on his new recruit.
“I know Ritchie well having coached him before during my time in England and Belgium. He can play as a defender or across the midfield with quality on the ball to help link defence and attack.”
Could De Laet have been a useful utility player for Villa? Well there’s certainly an argument for playing him as a right-back behind Yannick Bolasie to give Villa real pace down the right flank. Or maintaining his services to be good cover for a number of positions.
Ultimately though, as has already been suggested above, Bruce has preferred to get his own man in with Tuanzebe, meaning that Villa were carrying too many right-backs in their squad. So, it’s no shock to see De Laet opt for a loan out of B6.
If Elmohamady switches to right-back and Tuanzebe is used as a centre back and performs really well, then fair play Bruce. Yet, if Tuanzebe is continued to be played as a conservative right-back, who doesn’t really offer too much going forward, then his management of De Laet’s situation will be added to the growing list of misdemeanours that doubters of the Villa boss currently have.