Unai Emery has already paid Ross Barkley a compliment ahead of Aston Villa transfer

Ross Barkley is set to return to Aston Villa
-Credit: (Image: PA)

Unai Emery is said to be taken by midfielder Ross Barkley as the former Aston Villa loanee prepares to return to the club on a permanent basis - and he paid Barkley a compliment when Villa played Luton earlier this season.

Villa emerged victorious from their trip to Kenilworth Road in March in dramatic circumstances. After Ollie Watkins' brace in the first half, the Hatters hit back in the second and drew level thanks to goals from Tahith Chong and Carlton Morris. However, substitute Lucas Digne popped up at the death to secure all three points for Villa.

Barkley, who was a regular in the Luton side and excelled despite their relegation from the Premier League, played the 90 minutes in midfield on that Saturday evening. Prior to the game, Emery namechecked the 30-year-old - who maintains ambitions of an England recall - as a key player who was playing very well in that period.

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“He’s playing very well. They are in a very good moment – not only Barkley. They are feeling confident and playing feeling strong," Emery said prior to the 3-2 win. “Maybe they haven’t had good results because they didn’t win in their last matches but they are playing very well. I appreciate a lot how they are playing: very aggressive, man-to-man, playing in combinations. Barkley is in a very good moment."

Barkley, who outlined how he wanted to remain in the Premier League and also test himself in a European competition, is expected to sign a three-year deal when he moves from Luton and will become Emery's first signing of the summer, bringing with him plenty of experience and a familiarity of Villa, too - he played 24 matches under Dean Smith in 2020-21.

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