Unai Emery could bring a Spanish star back to the Premier League with Aston Villa after a previous short stint at Newcastle United.
Emery is in a rather fortunate position for a new Prem manager in that he has the World Cup break to finalise his tactical and transfer plans. And it is no surprise Villa have been linked with several Villarreal stars following Emery’s impressive spell there.
Villa have set their sights on Samuel Chukwueze, a Nigeria international with the ability to play as a winger on either flank. Villa will be able to land Chukwueze if they bid €40million (£35.1m) for him, although Arsenal will provide competition for his services.
The Villans are also in the picture to sign Chukwueze’s Villarreal team-mate Nicolas Jackson. However, Newcastle like the look of him too and could launch a bid next year.
There have also been links between Villa and other La Liga players. Emery apparently wants to replace goalkeeper Emi Martinez with Sevilla shot-stopper Yassine Bounou, who is also known as Bono.
Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo provide an update on Emery’s transfer plans at Villa Park. They claim the 51-year-old is hoping to sign a player formerly on the books of Newcastle.
The man in question is Real Sociedad and Spain midfielder Mikel Merino. He spent time at Osasuna and Borussia Dortmund before joining Newcastle on loan in summer 2017. After putting in some impressive performances for the Magpies, his transfer was made permanent the next summer.
However, Newcastle then came to the surprising decision to sell Merino. And he left for Sociedad in a €12m deal, as per transfermarkt.
Aston Villa could pounce after Newcastle failure
The 26-year-old has gone on to become an integral player for Sociedad. He has featured in all of their 14 La Liga matches this season and has even captained the side on numerous occasions.
Newcastle will have been regretting the decision to sell Merino in the last few years. They will be regretting Merino’s sale less now though, following the takeover and the signings of players such as Bruno Guimaraes.
Mundo Deportivo claim Merino could return to England in the near future. Emery would ‘love’ to sign the Spaniard for Villa to bolster his midfield ranks. And he is preparing to launch a big January play to complete the deal.
One reason for this transfer rumour will be Merino’s contract situation. His current deal expires in summer 2025 and Sociedad are set to begin talks over an extension.
But given Merino’s top displays, there is slight concern the player could reject a contract offer and push for an exit. This would give Villa a great chance to sign him.
Aston Villa helped by Premier League pull
If you just go off league position, Villa wouldn’t be a step up for Merino right now. While Sociedad are third in La Liga and battling for Champions League qualification, Villa are 12th in the Prem.
However, their appointment of Emery showed just how strong the pull of the English game is right now. He left Villarreal, a team competing in the Europa Conference League, to join Villa after Steven Gerrard’s sacking.
Merino would be a good signing for Villa, as he has proven himself to be a quality operator in Spain. However, Villa fans will keep a keen eye on how much he may cost.
His Sociedad contract includes a €60m release clause, which works out at £51.5m currently. Villa should be able to get him for far less than this if he rejects the offer of a new Sociedad deal. It seems that will be the most crucial factor in determining whether Merino ends up at Villa.
Meanwhile, Man Utd and Villa have been given the green light to sign a French attacker after one of his coaches spoke about the ‘difficulty’ of keeping him.