Given the hue and cry on social media (and MFW) this week around the next move of one Emi Buendia, I intended, for what little it was worth, to offer my two penneth this morning. I even penned a few opening lines yesterday afternoon.
And then Paddy Davitt goes and ruins it all.
Twitter: 5:23PM: Jun 5, 2021 – Buendia to #avfc. Done deal. Personal terms and medical agreed and completed. Club record fee. Believe in the region of £35m, plus sell on. #ncfc bought out prev sell on from #getafe. Confirmation likely next 24 hours #nocircus #ncfc (@paddyjdavitt).
It was the #nocircus bit that sealed it. Paddy code for ‘this is happening’. And so there it was. Literally in black and white (with a bit of blue or red).
He’s off. Our little bundle of footballing heaven is jumping ship. We pretty much knew it was going to happen but to have it confirmed…
And the bit that gnawed most: #avfc.
Those who had already accepted there almost was no way of keeping Emi this summer, had envisaged him heading off to exotic climes. The Champions League seemed the perfect stage for Emi, or at the very least the Europa League.
Villa, who finished 11th last season and who the season before only survived because of an errant piece of goal-line technology?
Villa, who just two seasons ago were left trailing in our wake as we ripped up the Championship for the first time?
Villa, whose fans have been giving us the ‘little Norwich’ treatment since the first rumour surfaced?
But, yeah, Villa.
And I guess if this little episode tells us anything, it’s that the Villa we whooped twice in 2018-19 en route to the title is a very different beast to the one we see today; the one that will very soon be home to Emi.
As one of their fans reminded me on Twitter, ‘but we have BILLIONAIRE owners’ And I suppose that’s it.
In the Guardian on Thursday, Dean Smith spoke of the club’s current owners, billionaire businessmen Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens, and their vision:
“From my interactions with the owners so far, they are very astute businessmen who have a strategic plan for Aston Villa,” said Smith. “Part of that plan is to go and compete with the upper echelons of this league. That’s where they want the club to go, they want to grow the brand of Aston Villa football club all across the world as well”.
So, at least they have a plan, and there’s nothing wrong with aiming for the stars, but unlike our own plan, their version relies less on innovation and a clever strategy, but more on dollars and Egyptian pounds… and lots of them.
In essence, it’s financial muscle that has caused Villa’s stock to rise and which has transformed them from an okay Championship side in May 2019, to Galacticos-in-waiting in June 2021. A similar route and trajectory of which Ipswich supporters are currently talking and dreaming.
So, while Emi won’t be getting the European football he was clearly hoping for, he will be getting a pay packet commensurate with someone of his talent, and, whether we like it or not, this current iteration of Aston Villa is, on the footballing spectrum, an upgrade on Norwich City.
It hurts, but it’s true. And, unlike some commentators, I don’t see this as City selling their best player to a relegation rival; I see it as City selling their best player to a club with lofty ambition who were willing to pay the asking price.
Stuart Webber clearly knew that Emi would be departing this summer and so wanted that piece of business done early in order to raise some cash for the months ahead.
A bidding war that dragged on through the Euros and beyond may have raised an extra, say, £5million (and landed Emi a bigger prize), but the strategic view was that a slightly smaller sum now with time to spend it would be preferable to a larger sum but with less time to reinvest.
And we have to trust Webber. He’s earned that.
There is also the small matter of him probably honouring an agreement he made with Emi at the start of this season, when the toys flew briefly out of the pram.
None of us, of course, are privy to the detail of those conversations, but if it was a ‘give us this season and you can depart in the summer if the price is right’ type chat, then it would have been impossible to renege on it without having one very peed off player.
The fact that Emi was selected for his national team while still an employee of Norwich City was seen by some as a sign that all his ambitions could be achieved while wearing yellow and green but, despite taking a Twitter hammering for saying it, I believed at the time it would only serve to hasten his exit.
And, looking back, that picture of him playing pool with Villa keeper Emiliano Martínez while on Argentina duty was maybe a clue – even if we didn’t realise it at the time.
I hate to say it, but he’s outgrown us, just as James Maddison did.
While we see our club’s trajectory as upward, the curves of Maddison and Buendia are considerably steeper, and when that happens a parting of the ways is sadly inevitable.
It hurts, and it will really chafe when those first pictures of a beaming Emi in claret and blue emerge, but, as they say, that’s football. We are where we are in the footballing food chain and when’s it’s boiled down, £35million of Aston Villa’s money is as good as £35million of anyone else’s.
But, if we’re scraping around for positives, the fact that Villa won’t be Emi’s final resting place virtually guarantees us another payday when he finally gets his big move, and then there’s that photo doing the rounds on social media of Ollie Skipp allegedly house-hunting in the city. The first one I’m confident will come to fruition; the second one… less so.
There are those who perceive the club selling its best player prior to embarking on another crack at the Premier League as an alarming lack of ambition – and I do get that – but I’m not sure the club had much choice in the circumstances. The ‘Brentford won’t be selling Ivan Toney’ argument is also true but ignores the fact that the Bees, and Toney himself, are not as far down the track as City.
Let’s see where Brentford are in a year’s time and if they are still not entertaining offers for the confident one.
So, however we feel about it and wherever we all are on the cycle of grief, it’s adios to one of the best players to have ever worn the yellow and green shirt. He brought us joy when we needed it most, and we won’t forget that.
The thought of him lining up against us next season stings (and it’ll probably be on opening day) but we have to trust Webber to deliver us some new heroes. In a day’s time, Emi Buendia will be an ex-Canary and we move on.
The stakes are high and Webber knows he will be judged by the squad he has armed Daniel Farke with when the transfer window closes, but it’s early days.
At the minute we’re 1-0 down with about 15 minutes gone but let’s judge our sporting director after 90 minutes or, as it’s also known, 31st August.
On the Ball City
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