By Eddie Chikamhi
The twists and turns in the January transfer business at English Premiership football club Aston Villa could leave Zimbabwe international midfielder Marvelous Nakamba on the brink.
Nakamba, who celebrated his 27th birthday yesterday, has once again come under the spotlight following the talk about the possible arrival of Frenchman Morgan Sanson at the Birmingham side before the close of the January transfer window.
There has been concerns back home for Nakamba who has been deprived of game-time after falling down the pecking order at Villa this season.
As a result, the midfielder has played peripheral roles in the current campaign. Nakamba has featured just four times in the English Premier League, and even that has totalled 103 minutes of football with the season approaching the half-way mark.
News that Villa are one of the clubs interested in signing the £22,5 million Marseille midfielder Sanson could leave Nakamba further down the pecking order with slim chances of him getting involved this season.
Already, Aston Villa appear to have a surplus of midfielders with Douglas Luiz, John McGinn, Nakamba, Conor Hourihane, Ross Barkley and Henri Lansbury all lining-up for selection.
But McGinn and Brazilian Douglas Luiz have been the preferred partnership for manager Dean Smith and the duo has been impressive in central midfield.
It’s hard to imagine where Sanson would fit into Villa’s midfield, as Luiz, McGinn and Barkley, who is on loan from Chelsea, have been superb this season.
Nakamba has been on the periphery and fellow midfielder Hourihane has been linked with a move away this January. Barkley, though, has been out injured with a hamstring injury since November.
Still, there is likely to be a big shake-up should Sanson get roped in.
According to reports from England, Sanson, a creative midfield player who can play box-to-box or in a holding role if needed, would be quite the coup for Villa if they can pull off a deal.
The general feeling among the Villans is that Sanson is too good for the Villa bench.
“In my opinion if he signs he is replacing someone so either Barkley isn’t coming or Luiz is off to (Manchester) City. I hope I’m wrong but can’t see us spending £20m for him to be a bench player unless we are looking into serious rotation next season,” said one Villa fan on Twitter.
According to football publication, Football Whispers, Sanson is more of an upgrade on Nakamba.
“A versatile midfielder, Sanson has often played as one of Marseille’s two holding players, alongside the likes of Strootman and Luiz Gustavo in a 4-2-3-1 (formation).
“He has, however, performed other roles. He has partnered Maxime Lopez in a 4-4-2, often sitting deep with the more creatively inclined 21-year-old influencing play higher up the pitch.
“His role during 2018/19 was defensive compared to 2017/18, his first full term after arriving from Montpellier in January 2017, in which he often operated in a more advanced midfield role supporting the striker.
“This positional shift unsurprisingly impacted his attacking output. In 2016/17, he scored four goals and notched 12 assists. In 2017/18, it was nine goals and two assists while in 2018/19, it was five and three respectively.
“Since moving to Marseille, he has proven adept at providing a clinical edge in the final third, with eight of his nine French Ligue 1 goals in 2017/18 coming from inside the box.
“On top of that, he created six Big Chances and showed his threat on the counter, with a league-high seven fast breaks from midfield. Shot-happy, only two midfielders surpassed his total of 26 shots from the centre of the box,” Football Whispers mentioned in their analysis.
Marseille boss Andre Villas-Boas has since confirmed interest from the English Premier League for the midfielder. Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and West Ham have also reportedly developed interests in the player. Speaking at last Saturday’s post-match press conference, Villa-Boas said: “We’ll see. The transfer window is open, Sanson is a player who is highly rated.
“Officially, we have not received any offers, unless it happened during the match.
“He is a boy who interests English teams because of his characteristics, and it is possible that something could happen.”
Villa boss Smith, meanwhile has refused to be drawn on his side’s move for French midfielder Sanson.
Sanson has been identified as a transfer target by Villa’s sporting director Johan Lange and the Dane is now reported to be trying to tie up a £15million deal with Marseille.
Head coach Smith, as always, has remained tight-lipped on Villa’s transfer activity – but he has suggested the club are in the market for “good value” deals this month, according to The Birmingham Mail.
The collapse of French football’s TV deal has landed a lot of Ligue 1 clubs in financial strife and English Premier League clubs are looking to take advantage.
Marseille previously valued Sanson at €35million but Villa are now on the verge of landing him for half of that figure.
Asked about the deal for Sanson at his pre-Manchester City press conference, Smith said: “There’s a lot of players that I like and I’m never name-checking players that are associated with other football clubs so unfortunately no (I can’t comment).
“I think I’ve always said that this is going to be a quiet window for us. Our plans are already looking forward to the summer window and what we’re going to do there.
“But we’re never going to turn our noses up at a good value deal to bring a player in. There’s the possibility of some outs as well.”
It is also not clear what would happen to Nakamba, who has been a long-term target for Turkish giants Galatasaray, if Sanson finally lands at Villa. It has been reported that the club has renewed their bid ahead of the January transfer window.
The Birmingham Mail reported that claims have been made in the Turkish press that Galatasaray remain keen on the Zimbabwe international and were proposing a loan move for Nakamba.
Galatasaray’s Super Lig rivals Trabzonspor were also reportedly chasing him. However, Villa manager Smith has constantly maintained there is still room for Nakamba at the club despite his lack of game-time.
Club legend Gabriel Agbonlahor also insisted the midfielder still has a big role to play at the English Premiership football club this season in a recent interview.
The Zimbabwean midfielder, who has played peripheral roles for Villa of late, has been subject of renewed loan transfer speculation ahead of the January window.
Agbonlahor told the Football Insider that the club should not look at off-loading Nakamba in January despite the strong links with Turkish giants, Galatasaray. The Herald