Aston Villa after the whistle: Everything that's happened since the last game of season

Unai Emery signed a new deal with Aston Villa last week
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Just over two weeks have passed since the curtain fell on Aston Villa's remarkable 2023/24 campaign and while attention turns to the international tournaments this summer, plenty is happening behind the scenes at Bodymoor Heath and Villa Park.

Following Manchester City's win over Tottenham last month, Villa's place in the Champions League was secured before the final day clash against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Villa had hoped to extend their season beyond May 19 after being installed as the early favourites to win the Europa Conference League this season.

Unai Emery's side were beaten by the eventual winners, Olympiacos, in the semi-final stage, but despite the disappointing 6-2 aggregate defeat, it didn't take away from what was a mightily impressive season. The amount of injuries Villa suffered through the campaign made the job Emery and his staff performed even more special.

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Last week, Villa announced manager Emery had agreed a new five-year contract after steering the club from 17th in the table to 7th during his first campaign in charge, before securing a top four finish last term.

“I am very happy to take this step and the responsibility of leading this club," Emery said. “Since I came to Villa with Wes and Nassef we found always the best environment and structure to develop a project with the highest ambition.

“All the football structure with Monchi and Damian and the owners, we share the same vision and same goals. There’s a great chemistry in Aston Villa. And the element of the fans’ support also makes the difference to feel like home. We are really excited to continue this journey with no limits to our dreams.”

Villa have already done the groundwork on a number of targets ahead of the summer transfer window opening on June 14 and are well prepared. The club's president of football operations Monchi will work around the clock to ensure Emery gets the targets he wants.

The biggest update regarding incomings in the fortnight since the season ended involves Ross Barkley. Villa have reportedly reached a verbal agreement with Luton Town for his transfer in the region of £5m. The 30-year-old is due to undergo medical tests before signing his deal.

Meanwhile, Villa have been busy finalising plans for the window, including decisions on which players can leave the club if the right offers are tabled. It's understood Diego Carlos could leave Villa this summer if his valuation is met, while Douglas Luiz is being considered as the 'most likely' big sale considering he has two years left on his deal and is of interest to a number of clubs.

He is admired by Arsenal and Barcelona, while Juventus have also emerged as a strong candidate to win the race for the Brazilian's signature this summer. President of football operations Monchi has been in Turin to meet Juventus officials over key summer deals, according to reports in Italy.

It's clear that Villa must generate funds if they are to spend money themselves this summer and given the interest in Luiz, he could be the quickest sale Villa could sanction if they so wish to.

Reports in Spain claim that Mario Hermoso is a target for Villa as he prepares to leave Atletico Madrid as a free agent in the coming weeks. Inter Milan and other clubs on the continent are also in the running to land the 28-year-old.

Villa are also reportedly in the race for one of Germany’s hottest prospects - but will face competition from some of European football’s biggest clubs. Schalke midfielder Assan Ouedraogo appeared to be heading for Bayern Munich, but the Bundesliga giants have pulled out of pursuing his signature.

It means the race to sign Ouedraogo is now wide open and Villa are said to be interested. He has a release clause of at least £12m which Premier League clubs must activate by mid-June.

Ollie Watkins and Ezri Konsa will likely head out to EURO 2024 with England, while Youri Tielemans and John McGinn will represent Belgium. Scotland respectively. Matty Cash was not included in Poland's provisional squad due to injury, while Villa blocked Thierry Henry from calling up Lucas Digne and Moussa Diaby to play for France at the Paris Olympic Games this summer.

Argentina's Emi Martinez and Brazil's Douglas Luiz will be at Copa America as La Albiceleste defend their title.

Villa Park
Villa Park -Credit:Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images

Elsewhere, a new financial proposal which aims to improve English sides’ competitiveness in Europe will reportedly be pitched to top-flight clubs at the Premier League's annual meeting this week. Crystal Palace will put forward a plan to give clubs like Villa more flexibility around spending and financial losses because Steve Parish believes that UEFA's coefficient payments are unfair and are not based on merit according to the most recent season.

UEFA's coefficient payments are based on a club’s past ten years of results in European competitions, which meant Newcastle United were given only £3.8m last season compared to Manchester City's £28m package.

If Premier League clubs agree to it, Villa would be given an extra £20m-£30m in allowable financial losses. Earlier this year, Villa said a loss of £119.6m for the 2022-23 accounts is “in line with the strategic business plan” and within PSR rules, which allows losses of up to £105m over three years.

Villa also want to increase the allowed losses over three years by an additional £25m, from £105m to £135m. Villa are said to have raised the issue with clubs last month for the limit to be increased. It will be formally discussed in this weeks' AGM.

The Premier League's Profit and Sustainability Rules (PSR) will have a strain on what Villa are able to do in the transfer market this summer and it's up to the club's president of business operations, Chris Heck, to help bridge the gap to the 'big six' in terms of generating revenue.

Speaking about financial fair play last month, Heck admitted: "It's a factor which affects the product on the pitch. It affects every fan. We have a real focus on tackling that problem, but it'll take a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of changes as we grow our business. We use the analogy with FFP that we have a train which is the football side, and a train on the business side.

"The train on the football side is going lightning fast and that's a good thing. The business side has to catch that train. We're working around the clock trying to do sponsorship deals, changing the stadium to be beneficial to Financial Fair Play, find new revenue streams, take in our merchandise in-house and things of that nature."

Heck has grand plans to drive Villa's revenue to help assist Emery and the footballing department in remaining at the top level. From next season, Villa's kits will be manufactured by Adidas after Sawiris - who owns around seven per cent of the German company - and Heck struck an agreement.

The deal is reportedly worth multi-millions of pounds for the men’s and women’s teams, and the academy. Greek online betting platform Betano will also be the most lucrative front-of-shirt sponsor in the club’s history. The Betano deal is set to run for two years until 2026 when the ban on gambling companies on shirt fronts comes into effect.

Villa have also announced an extension of the club's sleeve and trading partner agreement with Trade Nation. The first agreement was signed in June 2023 and the partnership will now run until the end of the 2025/26 season.

“The growth of sponsorship has doubled, in the sense of our three big assets - the front of shirt, the kit provider and the sleeve sponsor," Heck said. "Those deals are massive. We're really excited about getting those deals going in the summer, and we'll have a foundation to build on this business with those sponsors. As we add on more sponsors, we add on more nuances with the stadium and premium seating and merchandising.”

Speaking of premium seating, the club plans to add over 1,000 hospitality spaces after work started on renovating the stadium last month and will be largely complete by the start of the new campaign. The Holte End lower and upper will see the introduction of rail seating above vomitories, while there will also be gangway re-alignment in the lower section as well as seating adjustments.

Gangway re-alignment is also taking place in the North Stand upper, while seating readjustments shall be made too. Rail seating will also be implemented in the Doug Ellis lower, where the away fans stand. The seating works will see a marginal overall increase in capacity at Villa Park to approximately 42,900.

Other projects across the summer include a new club shop, a new fan zone - which will house up to 1,500 fans – to replace the Trinity Road fan zone and LEDs inside the stadium.

However, the redevelopment of Villa Park has resulted in the displacement of approximately 900 existing season tickets in the North, Doug Ellis and Trinity Road stands. The club confirmed full details for season ticket renewals earlier this week, but they will not be offering new season tickets to those on the waiting list this summer as a result of the small net reduction in general admission ticket availability for the new season.

While redevelopment work is taking place in the stand and across other areas of the stadium, club officials were asked in the latest Fan Advisory Board meeting about what improvements were going to be made to facilities in the North Stand for general admission (GA) tickets.

"It is an old building and therefore comes with some insurmountable challenges," Villa said. "However, we are looking to improve the environment for GA ticket holders in all stands to the extent we can.

"Adding additional premium seating has the knock-on effect of relieving over capacity in certain areas. We are also removing all betting kiosks from the stadium and are looking to use these spaces to enhance the concourse experience."