The definitive inside story of Aston Villa transfers and the PSR elephant in the room

Damian Vidagany and Monchi will be in touch with Nassef Sawiris throughout the summer
-Credit: (Image: Photo by ANP via Getty Images)

Aston Villa's president of football operations Monchi and director of football Damian Vidagany have been working around the clock at Bodymoor Heath with two main objectives in mind - to ensure the club remains compliant with Profit and Sustainability Rules (PSRs) by the end of the month and to improve Unai Emery's squad.

While players are either representing their national teams or on holiday, like most of Emery's support staff, Monchi and Vidagany are working 12-hour days in what is a hugely important summer. Working closely with owner Nassef Sawiris, the "triangle of power" faces the daunting task of raising transfer fees to avoid a possible points deduction from the Premier League, yet somehow find a way to make improvements to a squad which qualified for the Champions League and reached a European semi-final last season.

Everton and Nottingham Forest were both docked points in the past 12 months for breaching PSRs, but this won't be the case for Villa next term once Douglas Luiz's move to Juventus is completed. It is understood that his move to the Italian giants will be enough to alleviate any fears of not making the numbers match up by the end of this week.

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Here is the definitive guide to Villa's transfer strategy and summer dealings...

How will they ensure Villa remain PSR compliant?

Simply put, Villa are in the clear once Luiz departs. Any further transfer business would be part of the club's football strategy, which was established well over a year ago in preparation for dealing with the Premier League's financial rules, which clearly hold Villa back.

Sawiris and co-owner Wes Edens outlined their grand ambitions to take Villa into Europe and then qualify for the Champions League five years ago. The appointment of Emery and his staff have been crucial to reaching that goal, but now the club must feel like they are being punished for acting on their ambition.

Villa can have a legitimate gripe with the rules considering they have spent roughly £370m on transfers in the last four years, the ninth most of all Premier League clubs in that time. The 'big six' have splashed nearly £4bn combined since the summer of 2020. So after finishing above three of those clubs, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham, why should the rules not take into consideration that Villa had to spend money to become a competitive team at the top of the division?

Two of the aims of the league's financial rules are to "improve and preserve the competitive balance of the Premier League and promote aspiration of clubs." But that can't be true for Villa when they are forced to sell a key player simply because their revenue streams aren't yet as abundant as teams in the 'big six'. The Premier League's PSRs do not reward ambitious clubs and can eventually penalise them.

At the recent Premier League AGM, Villa even suggested increasing the allowed losses over three years by an additional £30m, from £105m to £135m, but did not win the vote. It forced the club to work outside the box and think long-term. Villa started working on this strategy more than a year ago with the club's officials respecting the league's rules despite their stance on wanting them to be updated to reflect a much-changed transfer environment.

Do Villa have a long-term strategy to deal with PSR challenges?

Monchi and Vidagany, alongside Emery, have evaluated their squad and pin-pointed players deemed untouchable who would remain at the club. Length of contracts and the ages of players have also been taken into account as plans were drawn up some 18 months ago.

The club's recruitment team were understandably delighted to secure Youri Tielemans on a free transfer last summer, after his exit from Leicester City following the expiration of his contract at the King Power Stadium. It followed another impressive coup in the summer of 2022 when Boubacar Kamara joined on a free.

Tielemans and Kamara are worth in excess of £100m combined considering not only their quality but, certainly in Tielemans' case, experience in European football and international football with Belgium.

A similar logic applies to the recruitment of Ross Barkley from Luton Town. While his transfer hasn’t been announced yet, Villa are landing an exceptional midfielder for just £5m. Tielemans and Barkley, although different in styles, could easily fill the void left by Luiz.

The Brazilian international has two years left to run on his current deal and was entering that stage of negotiations where the club either had to agree a long-term contract or cash-in before the players started to edge closer to only having one-year remaining.

So some forward thinking, and some smart dealing, will actually see Villa equipped with two top players in the same area of the field and a huge chunk of cash left over.

What about the deals involving Chelsea?

Luiz's move to Juventus alleviates Villa's fears over PSR, meaning any other transfer is simply due to a footballing decision rather than financial even though selling an academy player for pure profit, such as Omari Kellyman, is obviously going to bolster any balance sheet.

Emery wants to improve his starting eleven this season as well as his squad. The Spaniard is a massive fan of Barkley, and is believed to have met him personally to try and convince him to return to Villa for a second spell.

And left-back is an area Emery believes Villa could be stronger. In Ian Maatsen, the Spaniard would be landing a player who was voted the best in his position in the Champions League for Borussia Dortmund last season and is involved in the Dutch squad for Euro 2024.

Costing around £37.5m, Villa believe this is a great price for the player who still has plenty of room for growth. In a separate deal, Villa are selling Kellyman to Chelsea for £19m.

There has been plenty of noise from the outside and surprise that Kellyman would cost that amount of money. So, should any of the transfer fees raise eyebrows?

No, is the simple answer. Kellyman is without question the brightest talent to emerge from Villa’s academy, which has produced or developed the likes of Jack Grealish, Carney Chukwuemeka, Jacob Ramsey, Jaden Philogene and Cameron Archer in recent years.

Kellyman heads to London for £19m, which is less than the price Chelsea paid for Chukwuemeka two years ago. The then-18-year-old was entering the final year of his contract at the point of his departure, so there should be shock at the price Chelsea were willing to buy the talented teenager at.

Meanwhile, Tim Iroegbunam is going to Everton for a total of around £13m, which is a standard fee for another promising midfielder who impressed on loan at Queens Park Rangers in the Championship and is now ready for his chance in the Premier League.

Moving the other way, from Goodison Park to Villa Park, is England youth international Lewis Dobbin. He cost Villa £9m and like Iroegbunam, was on the fringes of top-flight football last term.

As for Enzo Barrenechea and Samuel Iling-Junior, Luiz's sale allowed Villa to take the opportunity to secure the services of both exciting youngsters. Iling-Junior will join Villa at the age of 20 with Serie A and Champions League experience already and with high hopes he can develop further under Emery’s guidance.

Barrenechea, a 23-year-old midfielder, is a player Villa believe can make his mark this season but, like the others, improve with time once he is ready for the physical demands of English football.

Villa transfer policy and youth recruitment

Villa's focus on recruiting players with room for growth is nothing new. Morgan Rogers was signed last season from Middlesbrough and is now going from Championship to Champions League in the space of six months. His transfer fee will have surely already risen by at least double in that short time following his impressive performances last term.

The club also signed Lino Sousa (19), Kosta Nedeljkovic (18) and goalkeeper Joe Gauci (23) back in January.

Villa’s long-term strategy, or a huge part of it, is to sign players who they can improve and potentially sell-on when the time is right. That, of course, will always allow them to stay one step ahead when it comes to PSR issues. Succession planning is also believed to be a crucial part of the club’s recruitment strategy.

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