After what can be considered a successful first transfer window for new Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard, it appears the former Rangers manager is already planning for the summer.
As such, the club has now been linked with a series of midfield players to bolster ranks in the middle of the park, with Brighton’s Yves Bissouma and Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi reportedly topping the list.
It is understood that Gerrard has £50 million at his disposal to get the man he wants, with a specialist defensive midfielder, considered a high priority.
Which player is the most likely?
Brighton have recently shown their hand as an albeit, reluctant selling club – despite them negotiating well for their best players. It means that Bissouma, who is also widely sought-after, could be the most realistic target for Villa.
Leicester meanwhile, have over the last few years done well from selling their best players and then reinvesting wisely, though only to clubs considered to be in a bracket above them.
Given that Villa are more or less on equal footing means that they may not want to sell one of their best players to a direct competitor, regardless of price.
Over the past couple of transfer windows, Bissouma has been strongly linked with Liverpool, though the reported price has been in the region of £50 million – right at the top of Gerrard’s budget.
It could be the case that this needle might move again by the end of the season, especially if the player has a key role over the next few months.
Having had a £35 million bid rejected for him last month, this appears to indicate that it could be a tough negotiation, while it could also spark a bidding war from recent billionaires Newcastle United if they survive.
Are any other targets likely?
Should they manage to land either of their two preferred midfield targets, it remains to be seen how much would be left in the budget and eventual league position could determine this.
It could be that they need to sell players to bring in new reinforcements and could be forced to cash in on one of their stars such as Tyrone Mings who has been linked away from the club.
Certainly, central defence is one area that Gerrard may look to reinforce for next season, especially if the club manages to secure a European finish, while he will no doubt be monitoring the success of Ollie Watkins and Danny Ings in front of goal.
The jury is likely to still be out on last summer’s £35 million signing Leon Bailey. The Jamaican was brought in as a replacement for Jack Grealish though injuries have curtailed his progress.