Back in 2016, Aston Villa were convinced to sell one of their prized possessions – Idrissa Gueye.
The defensive midfielder was a wall, an irremovable force capable of cleaning up the possession and dominating the playing field.
He was second to only N’Golo Kante for tackles in the 2015/16 season and thus, some of the Premier League’s bigger teams were always going to come calling.
Villa were relegated that season and as a result, lost Gueye to Everton. The midfielder later moved to PSG and has been the same combative presence that he was all those years ago at Villa Park.
However, for all the stories of how the Villans have missed the Frenchman, it’s a fellow countryman that they should now regret cutting their losses with so soon.
The man in question? Jordan Veretout.
The central midfielder was brought to the Midlands by Tim Sherwood in 2015 and in the process, catastrophically turned down the chance to join Leicester. What happened that year? The Foxes won the Premier League.
That will have come as a major disappointment for Veretout, a man who was subsequently relegated with the Villans. He was a steady player but few would have predicted his meteoric rise since departing.
He played out a loan spell with Saint-Etienne in 2016/17 and upon his return, Steve Bruce saw no way to work the Frenchman into his plans.
Thus, the decision from Bruce and former owner Tony Xia to sell him is something that can only be described as a huge blunder.
Veretout is now one of the most impressive in his position in Europe and following a spell with Fiorentina is now at AS Roma.
According to performance data collected by Football Observatory, he is ranked 21st for players in Europe’s top five leagues this term. For context, that puts him ahead of individuals like Joao Felix, Dries Mertens, Sadio Mane and Erling Haaland.
But what’s the reasoning behind that assessment?
Well, the 27-year-old has been as much an artist in the middle of the park as he has been a gladiator. Veretout has scored four goals in seven matches and has completed over 89% of his passes.
Furthermore, the Roma man has completed more progressive runs (2.7), ball recoveries in the opponents third (4.12) and forward passes (9.94) per 90 minutes than John McGinn, Douglas Luiz and Conor Hourihane.
Now, Aston Villa’s midfield is very stable at the moment, but it’s clear that from a deeper position, Veretout would offer them both more fluidity and positivity going forward.
He is a superb box to box midfielder and would have presented them with a quite brilliant option alongside McGinn if he was still at the club.
With Villa playing on the front foot more this season, as evidenced against Arsenal, they can afford to play with more risk. Veretout would bring that in abundance with his tremendous work rate and lung-busting runs forward.
The Villans are getting on fine without him this season, but it was still a blunder to let him slip through their grasp so easily.
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