Aston Villa boss Unai Emery has shown he was right all along about Jhon Duran

Unai Emery knows Jhon Duran has all the attributes to become a top striker
Unai Emery knows Jhon Duran has all the attributes to become a top striker -Credit:Photo by Franco Arland/Getty Images

Jhon Duran can be a nightmare to play with, let alone against, admitted Aston Villa captain John McGinn after the 20-year-old helped rescued a point against Liverpool on Monday night.

The Colombian came off the bench to score a brace in the 3-3 draw and boost Villa's chances of a top-four finish and qualification for next season's Champions League.

As the clock ticked down at Villa Park, the match appeared to be petering out, but Duran had other ideas. He's an agent of chaos - sometimes his impact is little more than leaving a few bodies on the floor, but on the odd occasion he can change a game, and just like earlier in the season against Crystal Palace, he fired Villa Park back to life on Monday night.

Liverpool thought the game was wrapped up, but when Alexis Mac Allister lost the ball high up and Calum Chambers dispossessed him, Duran reduced Villa's deficit with a smart finish from the edge of the box. His second goal was a fluke, but he and Villa deserved that slice of luck. They could have gone on to win the match when Moussa Diaby was presented with a great opportunity to score in the third minute of added time, but Alisson made a strong save to deny him.

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The point takes Villa within touching distance of Champions League qualification, and their place in the top four will be confirmed if Tottenham fail to beat Manchester City this evening. But on the night, it was Duran who stole the headlines and rightly so.

"He is very young, his potential is impossible to predict," Emery said. "I believe in him. Different football in Colombia, tactically the football is very different in the Premier League.

“We’re working with him a lot. I know he’s going to score and get chances and use his power. His potential is clear but we need to manage him as a young person. Today I’m very happy how he helped us because this is the consequence. We drew and we were close to scoring at the end with Moussa’s chance."

Signed as an unknown quantity in January 2023, Duran showed his talent in cameos last season, crashing the ball off the bar against champions Man City at the Etihad and putting himself about well for a teenager. He demonstrated that he has the physical capacity to adapt to Premier League football, and if he could get among the goals then the fee Villa agreed with Chicago Fire - which could rise to £18m - would turn out to be a snip.

Jhon Duran celebrates scoring Aston Villa's third goal of the game against Liverpool at Villa Park.
Jhon Duran celebrates scoring Aston Villa's third goal of the game against Liverpool at Villa Park. -Credit:Martin Rickett

He has made great strides in his progress inside 12 months, but while he faces a huge task to dethrone Ollie Watkins as the club's number one centre-forward, he must understand his role in the squad. Back in January, there was interest in Duran as he wanted more game time and regular minutes. Villa even turned down an offer from West Ham.

But it all seemed unnecessary considering the brilliant opportunity Duran has. He might not see eye to eye with Emery on every decision, but the Spaniard is one of the best coaches in the world, and he has a group of staff with a track record of improving footballers.

Duran is raw, of that there is no doubt, but Emery wouldn't be relying on him to change games or be used as his back-up to Watkins, if he didn't believe the Colombia international had the potential to one day become a star. So it's crucial that Duran realises what a golden chance he has at Villa - a team who could be playing Champions League football next season - and concentrates on his development.

Duran has the second best goals per shot ratio in the Premier League season, having bagged five goals from the 18 shots he has taken. McGinn spoke about both sides of the striker's game after the six-goal thriller at Villa Park.

“This place got us going when we got the second goal," the midfielder said. "It's a brilliant effort. Big Jhon is a bit nuts at times. He's a nightmare to play against, but he's got moments of quality.

“Okay, the second goal [a deflected effort past Liverpool keeper Alison Becker] was not about quality, but the first one was a top finish. We will need to try to keep his feet on the ground the next couple of days.”