Baena signs, £25m striker, Caqueret option - Aston Villa's next transfer decided

Maxence Caqueret shone with Lyon last season
-Credit: (Image: Photo by ANP via Getty Images)

Aston Villa have already signed five players and sold three inside the first three weeks of the summer transfer window and they are expected to remain busy to continue improving Unai Emery's squad.

Villa had to raise funds to continue complying with the Premier League's Profit and Sustainability Rules (PSR) and last week's £42m sale of Douglas Luiz put them in the clear. The Brazilian's switch to Juventus followed Tim Iroegbunam's £13m move to Everton and Omari Kellyman's transfer to Chelsea for £19m.

Lewis Dobbin was first through the door in a deal worth £9m, before Ian Maatsen signed a six-year deal after Villa agreed a £37.5m deal with Chelsea. In a separate deal to Luiz's move to Juventus, Samuel Iling-Junior and Enzo Barrenechea signed for a deal worth £18.6m. Ross Barkley is the latest addition to Emery's squad, as he signed on July 1 in a deal worth just £5m from Luton Town.

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Here are some players our writers think Villa should pursue in the coming weeks...

John Townley

While Villa prepared for the sale of Luiz by signing Youri Tielemans and Barkley for just £5m combined, one more addition in this department could be needed with the club set to play at least 48 games next season.

Barkley played in a deeper role for Luton last season and could play in a double pivot, as can Tielemans. Boubacar Kamara will be out for the first few months of the season through injury, while Enzo Barrenechea will need time to adapt to Premier League football. John McGinn is, of course, another option to play in the double pivot, but he plays his best football further forward.

In an ideal world, Villa would have two options per three midfield positions, two in the double pivot and one further forward. Kamara and Barrenechea are of similar profile, while Tielemans and Barkley are well suited to a role besides a more defensive-minded player. Belgian international Tielemans is also effective in that advanced role which McGinn plays best in, supporting Ollie Watkins.

One injury here and there could leave Villa short, so a move for Lyon's Maxence Caqueret could be a smart solution. The French midfielder has three years left on his deal at Lyon and has been linked with a move away for some years. Bayer Leverkusen are said to be interested in the 23-year-old this summer

Caqueret made 286 progressive passes last season, which was the most in Ligue 1 and the 10th most in Europe's top five leagues. For comparison, Luiz made 168 in the Premier League. Caqueret also made 205 passes into the final third and recorded a pass completion of nearly 83 per cent.

He is capable of linking attacks and breaking up play, having won 64 tackles last season, the second most in the French top-flight. He also made 24 interceptions in Ligue 1.

Dan Rolinson

My pick for one signing Villa have to make this summer is Alex Baena. The Spainard, currently out in Germany for the Euro 2024 Championships, would be a brilliant addition for Villa as they embark on their maiden Champions League voyage, a player that Emery has already worked with before.

Reports suggest Villarreal could accept offers around the €35m mark, which, for a player of his age and technical ability, would be excellent value for money. He's only going to get better. The 22 year old (he's 23 in a couple weeks) is primarily deployed as a left sided number 8 for Villarreal in La Liga, but can play further forward. Last season, Baena racked up 14 assists in La Liga, the most of any player across the league.

Aston Villa are pretty stacked on that left hand side with Jacob Ramsey and Morgan Rogers already competing for one place. Youri Tielemans, Emi Buendia and Leon Bailey can also play on that left flank if required, so I don't think there's room for Baena there. What I would be intrigued about, is pushing him further forward as a no.10.

Could Baena potentially play off Ollie Watkins in that second striker role? He then also has the ability to drop further back to a more 'natural' position in games when Villa find themselves under the cosh a little bit. He's certainly got the ability to play number 10, and whilst goals aren't his main currency (14 since 2020) the goals that he does score are of the highest quality, just have a look on YouTube.

He excites me. That's what I want from my football club. I love the idea of a diminutive 5"9' Spanish midfielder pulling the strings behind an in-form Ollie Watkins, flanked by Morgan Rogers and Leon Bailey, supported by Youri Tielemans or John McGinn. We're winning the lot.

Mat Kendrick

It's got to be Conor Gallagher for me. Football fans are so fickle (we're not fickle, we just don't like you, Mat!) that I'm already seeing some skeptics turning their nose up at Gallagher just because he's been caught up in England's collective Euros malaise.

I'd rather judge him on his consistent impact at Chelsea and the potential to positively thrive under Unai Emery than 102 minutes of snore-inducing Southgateball.

And if we are going to make snap judgements on limited evidence then I will put to you the 90 minutes in the 2-2 draw at Villa Park back in April. He was brilliant that day, scoring a worldie and dictating the play with a hustle-bustle all action display.

I'm not massive on statement signings, but what a signal it would be to the established elite that Villa have truly arrived if we're able to snaffle a jewel in Chelsea's crown. I'm not 100% convinced it will happen, but I'm excited that we're talking about the possibility of it.

James Quinlan

For me, Villa are heading into the campaign a little light in the goalscoring department, in numbers at least - between Ollie Watkins and Jhon Duran there are goals aplenty.

We know 2024/25 is going to be even more gruelling than the last as the demands of the Premier League will be enhanced by a minimum of eight Champions League matches, plus there will hopefully be cup runs to consider. All it takes to derail the season is an injury to Watkins, or perhaps Duran may even be sold by then.

The latter fact especially would mean dipping into the market becomes a necessity, and there are no better candidates currently on the club’s radar than TSG Hoffenheim’s Maximilian Beier. Last season only four were able to outscore his 16 in the Bundesliga, where he has shown fine ability to be in the right place at the right time and keep calm under pressure.

At 21 years of age his whole career is ahead of him, for now as Watkins’ understudy then with longevity in mind, as successor to the Englishman. What’s more, his €30m (£25m) release clause simplifies matters entirely and hopefully a continued lack of minutes at Euro 2024 keeps him off the scopes of Villa’s rivals for a little while longer.

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