Lange holds key to Nakamba’s future

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Nigel Matongorere
SPORTS EDITOR
matongoreren@dailynews.co.zw

ZIMBABWE international Marvelous Nakamba’s fate at Aston Villa will now be determined by the newly-appointed sporting director Johan Lange, who arrives in England as a transfer guru following his success with FC Copenhagen back in his native Denmark.

Lange was recently announced as Jesus Garcia “Suso” Pitarch’s replacement by the Birmingham-based club.
Suso was sacked just 24 hours after Villa survived relegation by a whisker when they earned a point against West Ham on the final day of the season following a 1-1 draw at the London Stadium.

The Spaniard was relieved of his position after he oversaw the club’s transfer strategy which saw Villa bring in 12 new players including Nakamba for a combined £150m last season.

Despite the huge outlay on new signings, the clarets and blue struggled for consistency and spent the better part of the 2019-20 season in the relegation zone.

The jury is still out on Nakamba’s performance following a topsy-turvy debut campaign in the English top flight.

The Warriors midfielder struggled with injury at the start of the season before working his way into manager Dean Smith’s starting XI following his €12 million arrival from Belgian side Club Brugge.

Nakamba lost his place in the team when the league resumed after the coronavirus (Covid-19) break as he started only one of the remaining 10 games.

Smith used the holding midfielder as a second half substitute in all the other games as Villa battled to retain their top flight status.

In the aftermath of their survival, owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens launched an inquest into why the club struggled.

All of the 12 signings made by Suso last season are now under scrutiny and their future at the club will be in Lange’s hands.

Lange has experience of English football having worked as assistant to Stale Solbakken during his spell as manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers during the 2012-13 season.

However, the 40-year-old has been brought in at Bodymoor Heath due to the massive success he enjoyed in a similar role with FC Copenhagen where he delivered three League titles and three Danish cups in the last six years.

 

“This is a great opportunity to improve our football operations. We’re excited to work directly with Johan and the team to strengthen our analytics, sports science, talent recruitment and player development programmes,” Villa said when they announced Lange’s appointment.

During his reign with the Danish giants, Copenhagen were known for their ability to find value in the market and turn quick profits while continuing to win trophies domestically and competing in Europe at the same time. Last year, Copenhagen sold Denis Vavro to Lazio for £9,5m and Robert Skov joined Hoffenheim for £9m just two years after signing for a fraction of those fees.

Lange also signed Robin Olsen for £630 000 before selling him to Roma for £8,1m while Jesse Joronen was signed for £800 000 and then sold on to Serie A side Brescia for £4,5m.

Just like the co-owner Edens, Lange is also obsessed and relies heavily on data and analysis when making transfer decisions.

“At the identification phase, our process is very data driven,” Lange explained his transfer strategy at FC Copenhagen during an interview with Sky Sports earlier this year.

“We are trying to find players earlier in their career. That is difficult to predict but it is important to try. The partnership between myself, the manager and the scouts is crucial.

“We take time at the start of the process to establish exactly what we are looking for. Then we can set the parameters with the data. It is only after that stage that it becomes about live scouting.”

During these initial first weeks, Lange and Smith will have to decide on the players they would want to retain from the current squad before bringing in any new signings.

It is going to be an anxious few weeks for Nakamba and the rest of the players brought in by Suso as Villa look to avoid last season’s struggles.

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