There is a feeling of inevitability about the Ashley Young stories. And we’ve been here before with Yorke, Barry, Milner…so we need not bury our heads in the sand.
Whilst the club and Houllier are quick to say that discussions regarding a new contract will take place in the summer – there is going to be the added pressure of interested parties circling to pick at what is likely to have been a poor Villa season. So what is the contingency?
Because – in reality – the offer will come. And in an age where the player is king, we might once again be rocked by the loss of one of our central figures. Now, Young has his critics because for a player packed full of trickery and pace he frequently displays too much petulance and all too often cannot beat a man to deliver the telling ball. Indeed most Villa fans would look at Downing as being more likely to provide an assist.
However, Young is without doubt our most threatening attacking midfielder and unique players on his day. He is one of very few amongst our ranks when looked at who could genuinely add to a top four club. Young represents something different – a game changer – a luxury – and in a larger squad of first class players, another option to call upon.
Of course this would lead to more time sat on the bench for him – but this is a frequent sacrifice within modern football. And there is an argument to counter this. At Villa, Young would be expected to be an ever present. At a club like Manchester United he could earn more, play less, win more and arguably have a longer career as a consequence. These are facts that no Villa fan need like, but they are the facts nonetheless.
Am I advocating we sell Young? No – his departure would once again set us back. The point is whether we could resist, or indeed if we should. It is not unreasonable to assume that any offer would exceed £10 million – covering our outlay to Watford – and in the current market anything goes. This could be reinvested into our squad and forging it into the new shape that Houllier is struggling to make fit with current players.
And there is a danger of stagnation. A team can hold on to a player for too long and their performances will dip and this affects the whole team. This was the prospect facing Liverpool recently when Torres pushed for a move away. For all of the summer 2010 press releases from Torres saying he was loyal to the club to appease fans, on the inside, those he had to play with knew that he was orchestrating a move away. This soon translated into his (and Liverpool’s) most lacklustre Premiership season to date which is causing him a hangover in terms of form even up now.
Villa need to be honest, because we are as far away from offering Champions League football to a player like Young as when he joined the club. The cash will be on the table this summer, there can be no doubt – and we must choose whether to make the kind of steps that (and it pains me to say this) Tottenham have done to invest to the level where there can be no doubt of a challenge – or – accept that we need to build from the ground up – and that means selling one of the jewels in our crown to fund it.
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