Aston Villa

Aston Villa

Premier League • England

Aston Villa line up Man Utd target as spectacular first Unai Emery signing, with manager’s decision proving Steven Gerrard right

Juventus striker Dusan Vlahovic and Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres

Aston Villa plan to kick off the Unai Emery era in style upon signing a Man Utd target, with the new manager’s decision seemingly proving Steven Gerrard was right.

Unai Emery has just three matches to assess his new Aston Villa squad before domestic football gives way to the World Cup.

The former Arsenal boss will make his debut in the Villa dugout on Sunday when hosting Manchester United at Villa Park. In a twist of fate, his second match will be against the very same opponent.

Villa travel to Old Trafford for their EFL Cup Third Round clash on Thursday. Emery’s final match in charge before a six-week break is against Brighton a week on Sunday.

Emery is expected to be backed in the January window, making the next eight days a vitally important period for the new manager. The decisions the club makes in the winter window will have their roots in what Emery sees in his side over the next three matches.

However, according to a Spanish report, Emery has already determined one position in particular requires an upgrade.

Via the Mirror, it’s reported Aston Villa are lining up Villarreal’s Pau Torres ahead of the January window.

The 25-year-old Spain international – who was heavily linked with Man Utd over the summer – plays at centre-back and tellingly, is left-footed.

Left centre-half is the position Tyrone Mings has primarily played during his stint at Villa Park. He’s generally been a regular in the club’s colours, though fell foul of former boss Steven Gerrard at the beginning of the season.

Emery reaches same conclusion as Gerrard?

Gerrard stripped Mings of the captaincy and dropped him for the opening match of the season against Bournemouth.

Ezri Konsa and Diego Carlos were preferred, with Mings only recalled a week later with Konsa ruled out through injury.

However, disaster struck when Carlos suffered a serious Achilles injury. That forced Gerrard to recall the off-form Mings out of necessity rather than a change of heart.

Gerrard clearly was not buying what Mings was selling. Given Villa are reportedly going after a left-sided centre-back as their first priority, Emery seemingly feels the same way.

On the subject of how much Pau Torres could cost, the report claims he holds a release clause worth around £56.6m.

A deal of that size would constitute a new club-record for Villa. However, with Mings unfancied and Carlos injured for the long haul, an upgrade in a position as vital as centre-back is clearly needed.

Torres has entered the final two years of his contract with the Yellow Submarine. As such, Villa may fancy their chances of signing Torres for a fee below his release clause.

Of course, that would be dependant on Torres refusing to pen fresh terms between now and January.

Pau Torres an eye-catching Aston Villa move

Torres has been capped 21 times for Spain and shone for Villarreal during each of their last two European campaigns.

He was their leader at the back when Emery guided Villarreal to Europa League glory in the 2020-21 campaign. Villarreal knocked Arsenal out in the semi-finals and sunk Man Utd in the final.

Torres also played a huge part in their surprise surge to the Champions League semi-finals last term. Juventus and Bayern Munich were both knocked out at Villarreal’s hands along the way.

Torres has continued to draw fleeting links with Man Utd despite the arrival of Lisandro Martinez.

Martinez is the only left-footer on the club’s books, while doubts remain over the long-term futures of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof.

However, if United dally, it appears Villa may be ready to pounce at the earliest possible opportunity in January.

EXCLUSIVE: Secret deal gives Aston Villa new route to first Emery signing, with attacker to cost far more than first thought