Marvelous Nakamba’s Villa future in balance
THE coming weeks will be crucial for Zimbabwe international Marvelous Nakamba’s future at Aston Villa following an underwhelming debut campaign in the English Premier League (EPL).
After spending weeks in the bottom three, Villa secured their top flight status in dramatic fashion on the final day of the season following a 1-1 draw with West Ham at the London Stadium on Sunday.
The Villains finished the season ju600st one place above the drop zone in 17th place with 35 points as they survived relegation by a whisker.
Nakamba arrived at Bodymoor Heath as a highly-rated holding midfielder following his €12 million move from Belgian side Club Brugge last August.
The former Bantu Rovers player was an instant hit after breaking into manager Dean Smith’s starting XI in the campaign’s opening matches.
However, as the season progressed, the Villa number 11 began to make some uncharacteristic mistakes as the demands of the English game took their toll on the Zimbabwean.
It was no surprise to many when Nakamba lost his place in the starting team when football resumed in England following the coronavirus (Covid-19)-induced two-month break.
Smith was now trusting Brazilian midfielder Douglas Luiz to provide protection for the back four as Villa needed to shore up their defence.
For the remaining eight matches, the 26-year-old had to contend with a place on the bench, only starting one game in that period in the 0-1 loss to Wolves.
In those remaining matches, the Zimbabwean played a total of 201 minutes out of a possible 720 as his influence on the way Smith wanted his team to play greatly depreciated.
With their status in the top flight now secure, Villa have already begun planning the way forward in anticipation of the next season.
The 2020-21 EPL season kicks off on September 12 and will run until May 23, 2021 which means teams have a shortened pre-season of only seven weeks.
Smith was scheduled to meet with the Villa billionaire owners Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris together with chief executive Christian Purslow and sporting director Jesus Garcia Pitarch yesterday to discuss new signings and those that will be released.
Last summer saw Villa bring in 12 players, with Smith completely revamping the squad that won promotion from the Championship.
But after an outlay of almost £150 million, struggles on the pitch have meant that pressure has piled on Smith and Pitarch.
“I’ll sit down with the sporting director, CEO and owners tomorrow (yesterday), but let us enjoy this is great achievement for now.
“We were written off by many people and we’ve managed to stay up on the final day,” Smith told BT Sports after the draw with West Ham on Sunday.
This means the future of a number of Villa players including Nakamba will be determined in the coming weeks depending on the direction the club intends to take next season.
When Nakamba signed from Brugge, he penned a five-year deal which means he is left with four more years on the current contract.
Any club interested in the services of the Zimbabwean will have to pay a significant transfer fee.
A lot of the transfer dealing at Villa Park will also depend on the future of captain Jack Grealish, who is the subject of interest from a number of big clubs in the EPL.
When asked about Grealish’s future, Smith said: “He goes out and gets drunk with me now!” before adding: “We’ve got billionaire owners and he’d cost a lot, a lot of money.”
Villa will only be tempted by a transfer bid in the region of £80 million and above for their influential skipper.