Aston Villa are a team reborn under Unai Emery. From the brink of relegation to European football in the space of eight months, they’ve now recruited the services of Emery’s partner in crime, Monchi, and Villa fans will be hoping the pair can replicate their trophy-laden spell in Seville.
The renowned sporting director, full name Ramón Rodríguez Verdejo, won seven Europa League titles during two spells at Sevilla, three of which came whilst Emery was at the helm, to cement his reputation as one of football’s shrewdest operators. And whilst he struggled to produce similar results during a nearly two-year stint at Roma, there’s an expectation that given the same sort of time that he was afforded at Sevilla, Villa can begin to challenge both at home and abroad.
Monchi’s time in Rome was characterised by the club’s failure to produce results domestically. But in Europe they thrived, and whilst money was spent frivolously, the sorts of disagreements Monchi had with then Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco seem unlikely to resurface with Emery, a man with whom Monchi holds a very successful working relationship.
In Europe for the first time in a decade, Villa will be hoping to draw on Monchi’s expertise in this department and follow in the footsteps of West Ham United, who lifted the Europa Conference League this month – their first piece of European silverware in nearly 60 years. Villa turned to Monchi after failing to bring in Mateu Alemany from Barcelona, but whilst not their first choice, the Spaniard’s credentials reflect the ambition of the club.
Monchi will come in as the new President of Football Operations and oversee the transformation of a squad that could play in excess of 50 games next season. Youri Tielemans has already arrived on a free from Leicester City, whilst reports suggest Villa are looking for a right-back to provide competition for Matty Cash and a backup goalkeeper, with Emery looking to rotate his options between the sticks.
Among Monchi’s best finds are Dani Alves, Ivan Rakitic and Jules Kounde. He has a knack for buying low and selling high, which in an increasingly inflated market could prevent Villa from spending recklessly in their pursuit of the top six. Links to Pedro Goncalves, who reportedly has a £69m release clause, suggest Villa aren’t afraid to spend big this summer. But they must be wary of paying over the odds for European pedigree players. Villa are shopping in a different market now, and Monchi’s influence will be crucial in ensuring they continue to make savvy deals.
The 54-year-old cited Emery as a key reason behind him taking the job at Villa, and their pre-existing working relationship will ensure that the club can seamlessly coordinate their plans for the summer. With a two-legged Europa Conference League play-off set for the end of August, Villa’s season gets off to a hectic start, and as such, there will be more emphasis on getting deals done early to ensure everyone is up to speed in time for the start of the new season.
Villa are in an enviable position this summer, with many of their star assets settled and a transfer kitty to rival some of the biggest clubs in Europe. Monchi has all the tools to breed an environment where Villa consistently challenge, but as his time at Roma proved, he needs time.
By: Sam Tabuteau / @TabuteauS
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / NurPhoto