Aston Villa have broken their record transfer fee for a third summer transfer window running after paying up to €35m for Norwich City’s Emiliano Buendia.
Securing the services of one of the Championship’s best performing players in recent years is a transfer strategy Villa have deployed in seasons past, and with much success too.
Last season, Dean Smith went all out to set up a reunion with Ollie Watkins while Matty Cash was also bought in as the club’s first signing that summer after Villa secured their top-flight status on the final day of the 2019/2020 season.
After making a success of the longest Premier League season in history, Villa raided the transfer market with healthy financial backing from owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens and their investment, as it so often has, proved the difference.
Villa have again announced their intent by breaking another transfer record a year later by signing Argentinian maestro Buendia from newly-promoted Norwich.
The playmaker was recently named the Championship’s Player of the Season and was destined to leave Carrow Road this summer, though his destination was uncertain with interest heavy for a player in demand.
Buendia scored 15 goals for Norwich last season as he helped secure the title for the Canaries but he also created another 16 and those figures were enough to attract interest from particularly Villa and also Arsenal.
After reported bids from both clubs were slightly off the mark, Villa went back in to land a player that will go some way in boosting the club’s hopes of finishing the season in a European spot next season.
Villa were looking to strengthen their ranks in the summer window now the 2020/21 Premier League season has concluded, and Buendia was the number one target, just like Watkins was the summer before.
Smith’s side ended their second season back in the Premier League in mid-table and finished in a respectable 11th-place after beating Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea towards the end of the campaign.
Speaking about the club’s summer transfer plans last month, Smith told avfc.co.uk: “We’ve been planning for a long time. The people in the recruitment department and the sporting director have certainly had their finger on the pulse.
“The targets will make me excited, so it should make the supporters excited as well.”
Sporting director Johan Lange was instructed to search for suitable signings in midfield and attacking areas, in particular, to continue Villa’s upward trajectory in the top-flight.
Emi Buendia the man to share Jack Grealish’s creative load
While a top-seven finish was a genuine possibility as the New Year rolled around last season, Villa would rue missing their talismanic captain, Grealish for a substantial period of time through injury.
The absence of Grealish put pay to the club’s hopes of finishing the season within the league’s upper echelons and in fact, had to settle for a bottom-half finish come May.
The signing of Buendia will go some way in curing Villa’s attacking and creative deficiencies when Grealish cannot be relied upon. For every mesmeric run and silky drop of the shoulder, Grealish was starting to be identified by opposing defences as the clear and obvious dangerman.
While some teams like West Ham and Brighton would double up and restrict space for Grealish to operate in – before he suffered his shin injury in February – Villa struggled to cope without him on the pitch.
Trezeguet was also handed a cruel blow when he was injured during Villa’s visit to Anfield, and with many more months left for his full recovery, the Egyptian will be missing the majority if not all of the next Premier League campaign.
Reinforcements out wide are key and for a team lacking that extra verve without a player like Grealish every now and again, Buendia is just the right man to provide and come up with the goods when it matters most.
Buendia also ticked several boxes for Smith. He has several years of experience in English football, has impressed in both the Premier League and Championship and at 24 years of age he also has the potential to improve further.
After Norwich were relegated back to the Championship in 2020, Buendia created 29 chances for his teammates in the month of December 2019, which is the most by a player in a single calendar month on record in Premier League history.
In fact, Buendia’s 29 chances created that month remains the most any player has created in a single calendar month in one of Europe’s top five leagues since April 2012 when none other than Andrea Pirlo made 34 in the Seria A.
The attacker, who had been on loan from Getafe at the struggling Segunda División club Cultural Leonesa in 2017, joined Norwich for an initial £1.3m three years ago.
It’s testament to Norwich’s sporting director, Stuart Webber that the club can replenish players so very easily through savvy recruitment and statistical analysis.
After lighting up the Championship last season by contributing 14 goals and a league-high 16 assists last season, it’s been quite a journey to stardom for the diminutive Argentine… one that’s very close to home for one of Villa’s already resident South Americans.
Having both starred in Argentina’s international fixtures this month, Emiliano Martinez and Buendia were both born in Mar Del Plata on the Argentinian coast. They’ve grown up in the same neighbourhood as each other, shared the same dreams of representing their nation and indeed playing their club football on the biggest stage, now they’re both living it out at Villa Park.
Buendia joined Real Madrid’s youth setup at the age of 11 before joining Getafe two years later, and after being on the end of some sticky results during his four year stay as a pro in Spain, it was a night at the Nou Camp that’ll live longest in the memory of the Argentine.
After being on the end of a 5-0 hammering before half-time against Barcelona, Lionel Messi asked Buendia if he wanted to line up alongside him for international duty. Buendia was able to play for either Spain or Argentina on the international stage due to a mixture of allegiances, but Messi would of course sway that decision.
Before the second half began in Barcelona, Messi covered his mouth and encouraged a then 18-year-old midfielder, who had represented Spain at youth level a month earlier, to switch allegiances. “I maybe did something good to impress him,” Buendía told The Guardian.
“He asked: ‘What do you want to do? Do you want to play for Spain or Argentina?’ Quickly I said: ‘Of course I want to play for Argentina. I want to play with you – it is a dream.’”
Having become the third player to break Villa’s transfer record fee in as many years, Buendia will welcome the opportunity to walk out to a packed out Villa Park and settle some unfinished business in the English top-flight all the while helping invent the club’s exciting future.