Aston Villa repeat exit strategy with midfield man as move is confirmed

Conor Hourihane playing for Republic of Ireland

Aston Villa have confirmed another loan departure for midfielder Conor Hourihane, who has joined Sheffield United for the season.

Hourihane joined Villa from Barnsley in 2017 and was a regular for them in the Championship. After helping them win promotion, he still featured fairly frequent in their first season back in the Premier League. But chances were limited last season and he made just five appearances before dropping back down to the second tier.

The midfielder spent the second half of the season with Swansea City, making 22 appearances and scoring five goals. He started the play-off final, but it was a game that Swansea lost.

Since then, Hourihane has been back at Premier League level anyway, training with Villa throughout pre-season. He even captained them in their Carabao Cup victory over Barrow in the first round. But he has not played a single minute in the league since the new campaign began.

Therefore, Villa have allowed him to drop back into the Championship. He has signed for Sheffield United on a season-long loan.

The Blades suffered relegation from the Premier League last season and are trying to construct a squad that can return. However, it has been a difficult start so far and they are winless after five league games.

The addition of a player like Hourihane, who knows the second tier well and at 30 years of age has plenty of experience, should be useful for them.

Hourihane completed a medical in South Yorkshire on Monday before heading off to link up with the Republic of Ireland squad for the international break.

He still had time to give his views on the move, though, telling “I’m delighted to be here and cannot wait to get started.

“I’ve played against Sheffield United a few times and it is an exciting club to be involved in. The manager here [Slavisa Jokanovic] has a great reputation in the Championship, his Fulham team beat us in a play-off final a couple of years ago and I’m looking forward to working with him.”

Sheffield United have given Hourihane the number 24 shirt.

Rating last season’s deadline day signings in the Premier League

Villa eye midfielder move

After getting rid of one midfielder who did not feature prominently in Dean Smith’s plans, Villa could look to add one that convinces the coach more.

Over the weekend, it was claimed that they are interested in making a surprise move for Liverpool midfielder Curtis Jones on a permanent transfer.

Jones has emerged as a major part of Jurgen Klopp’s central midfield rotation over the past 18 months. However, he has missed the start of the new Premier League campaign after suffering a concussion during the Reds’ final friendly match of pre-season.

With Gini Wijnaldum departing on a free transfer to PSG, Jones could play a major role for Liverpool this term.

However, The Sun claimed Villa will test Liverpool’s resolve by making a move to sign the 20-year-old.

The report notes that Jones, who has a contract until 2025, could be subject of a £15m offer before Tuesday’s deadline.

While Liverpool’s valuation is not mentioned in the report, it’s almost certain they would value Jones at a higher price.

Indeed, Villa may well have to think again if submit an initial offer. Jones’ age and the current inflated market for English players likely means a fee well in excess of £20m.

Dean Smith is still looking to bolster his squad before the deadline. Money is still available to the Villa boss after the £100m sale of Jack Grealish to Manchester City.

Villa have so far brought in Emi Buendia, Danny Ings and Leon Bailey, but still areas they want to strengthen.

One of those areas is central midfield, with John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey both currently isolating due to Covid-19. Their absence was noticeable as Smith’s men drew 1-1 with Brentford on Saturday.

But whether Liverpool ace Jones arrives remains to be seen, especially with Klopp being such a big fan.

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