What with the enforced lockdown due to Covid-19, the matter of contract extensions is a more prominent issue for clubs, with Villa no exception.
Following on from the news that 14 Villa players are being released was the more positive update of the club awarding professional contracts to promising youngsters.
Due to the season extending beyond May, and with deals ordinarily expiring on the 30th of June, Villa have been forced to act in respect of the loan deals for Pepe Reina and Danny Drinkwater.
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The former Liverpool stopper is currently on loan from AC Milan, having been brought in as a result of the season ending injury sustained by Tom Heaton.
The World Cup winner initially impressed, cutting an experienced and charismatic figure between the sticks. However, a couple of dubious performances saw Orjan Nyland back in favour. The Norweigian gradually rebuilt both his and Smith’s confidence with some impressive displays as Villa progressed to the Carabao Cup Final.
Reina’s deal was due to expire at the end of June and the former Spanish international had been quoted of his firm intent to return to see out his deal with Milan.
Whilst Reina has been warming the bench lately, it remains to be seen whether he could yet get the nod over Nyland.
The Norweigian international has already made two blunders in just four games since the Premier League returned, with a Hawk-Eye failure and a Jota miss after his error saving his skin.
Stranger things have happened.
The 30 year old midfielder continues to under-whelm, with his career drifting far from the previous heights of being a Premier League champion and England international.
Drinkwater is yet to recover from an alarming debut performance against Manchester City (1-6), in which the former Burnley loanee appeared far from match sharp.
He also found himself in hot water early into his Villa career, headbutting Jota in a training ground fracas which almost resulted in his return to Stamford Bridge.
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Having made just 23 appearances in three years following an unbelievable £35m transfer, it’s now make or break for Drinkwater. He finds himself at Villa trying to not only rebuild his reputation, but justify a professional contract generally.
Drinkwater is seemingly well regarded by Smith and following a return from injury, resurfaced on the bench against Wolves but did not feature.
If Villa can somehow rehabilitate him into a footballer, if only for six relegation survival games, that would of course be ideal. However, unless something dramatically chances, it does feel somewhat remote.
This preference for Drinkwater despite the apparent issues also speaks volumes for another Villa midfielder, with Henri Lansbury not threatening the first team nor the matchday squad.
Both Reina and Drinkwater will remain with Villa until the campaign is concluded.
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