Unai Emery will benefit from £33m Aston Villa player who can fill the 'Lionel Messi' role

Emi Buendia of Aston Villa
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Neville Williams/Aston Villa FC via Getty Images)

Aston Villa will report back for pre-season training in the near future ahead of what looks to be a relentless few months. Aside from the tour of the US and a quick trip to Borussia Dortmund for friendlies ahead of the new season, when the real stuff begins the Lions will be fighting both on the domestic front and in Europe, too, in the newly formatted Champions League.

It'll be all hands to the pump for Unai Emery, who is conducting a thorough audit of his squad currently and who is due to welcome a number of fresh faces into Bodymoor Heath. While Villa have sold Tim Iroegbunam and are well on their way to parting with Omari Kellyman and Douglas Luiz, plenty of new signings are expected imminently.

It's cliched, but Villa do have a couple of 'new signings' already within their ranks, aside from an actual new signing in Lewis Dobbin. Both Tyrone Mings and Emiliano Buendia missed practically the entirety of last season, only able to watch as their teammates lifted the Lions up into a fourth-placed finish and an adventure to the Conference League semi-final.

READ: Emery has made feelings clear on Ramsey amid Tottenham cash plus player bid

READ: Villa hatch £30m Man City transfer plan for shock Champions League qualifier

Mings has kept his social media followers regularly updated on how his rehabilitation process - which has involved a trip to the States - has been going, while Buendia, all being well, will join the centre half in pre-season training as and when their teammates report back to Bodymoor. The Argentine especially was enjoying himself under Emery the season before.

Buendia had struggled to make a significant impact towards the end of Steven Gerrard's time in charge, particularly in front of goal, but once Emery was appointed those fortunes improved somewhat and he netted important goals in victories over Leeds United, Everton and Bournemouth on the club's march up the table and onto the Conference League qualification.

It was cruel, then, that he was denied the chance to build on those Emery foundations when he suffered that devastating knee injury last summer. All Buendia could do was watch on throughout this last year, remain patient and hope that his teammates could realise their amitions in his stead. Now, he is returning - while requiring a little patience, of course - to an exciting group who are set to embark on a campaign involving football at Europe's top table.

Emery, too, was beginning to find uses for Buendia as he oversaw a dramatic upturn in form in 2022-23. Shortly after his appointment, and around the time of the World Cup, Emery complimented the playmaker's form and application. “I think Buendia’s best quality is his mentality," he said. "He is always pushing and sometimes I have to stop him.

"I have to control his mind because he gets so excited sometimes and he is not clear in his thoughts about what he is going to do next on the pitch. I’ve been speaking a lot to everybody and to Emi especially. I have used him as a second striker, as a left winger, but playing inside. I am trying to find his best position on the pitch and how he can combine best with his teammates on the pitch.

“Emi is a very good player and he has a big challenge here with Aston Villa. His career here is just starting. Fans of Aston Villa must enjoy him. His position is similar to (Lionel) Messi but they are so different – both Argentinian but very different. We want to enjoy working with him to achieve his best performance. He’s doing very good work every day to do his best in the future and in the present with us.”

While Leon Bailey has since hit a new height and Moussa Diaby has joined the club while Buendia has been absent, he'll be returning to a squad which is on the up and in which competition for places is at an all time high. In time, though, Buendia has already proven why his return can mark an exciting re-addition to this group already packed with quality.

What do you expect of Buendia next season? Tell us in the comments