Aston Villa are clearly not messing about in the transfer market, with Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse the next target on their shortlist.
Dean Smith’s side are closing in on a £35m deal to sign Norwich City playmaker Emiliano Buendia
The Villa boss is keen to strengthen in the centre of the pitch and quickly identified both Buendia and Ward-Prowse as potential targets, and those in charge of the club are more than willing to reward Smith after an outstanding two years in the Premier League.
Villa hope to improve on this season’s 11th-placed finish and see the creativity offered by both Buendia and Ward-Prowse as potential catalysts for that. The latter’s outstanding ability from set-pieces also works in his favour.
“In terms of our recruitment, we talk about the sweet spots that we’re looking for, which is that the players have Premier League experience and are [ideally] British because there is no adaptation risk at all,” Smith said recently of his plans for the transfer window.
Whether Southampton would be prepared to sell their captain remains to be seen. Ward-Prowse still has four years remaining on his contract and is on the cusp of being in the England squad, so his value to the Saints is as high as ever.
A big bid could be enough to sway those in charge at St Mary’s Stadium, who have watched their team underachieve dramatically over the past few seasons.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men finished 15th this season – the third time since 2017 in which they have finished in the bottom five – and look like a side sorely in need of a rebuild.
Villa seemingly recognise that and are prepared to test Southampton’s resolve over the midfielder, who bagged eight goals and seven assists in the 2020/21 campaign, in which he played every possible minute for his team in all competitions. The last time he didn’t complete 90 minutes for his side was an FA Cup defeat to Tottenham in February 2020, a game in which he went off injured.