Aston Villa Transfers: Should Villa pursue Jesse Lingard?

Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard could be available, according to The Athletic’s Laurie Whitewell, who says that West Ham United can’t afford the club’s £30 million valuation of the player.

The 28-year-old spent the second half of the 2020/21 season on loan at West Ham and scored nine goals in 16 appearances helping the club to secure a sixth-place finish and a UEFA Europa League bid.

With Aston Villa set to miss out on signing Emile Smith-Rowe from Arsenal, could Lingard be a feasible transfer alternative and candidate to fill the No. 10 role at Villa Park?

After making 22 league appearances in 2019/20, Lingard’s only involvement in United’s 2020/21 season came via the FA and League Cups. His subsequent resurgence in London was so prolific that it earned him a call-up to England’s Euro 2020 camp, though he would narrowly miss out on being named to Gareth Southgate’s final 26-man roster.

Lingard’s versatility and experience could aid Aston Villa’s imminent push for Europe.

For Dean Smith’s Villa, who preferred a 4-2-3-1 in 2020/21 to the 4-3-3 formation utilized in the two seasons previous, a new No. 10 has emerged as a priority. Ross Barkley filled the role for most of last season, but the Chelsea loanee struggled for form and fitness, signaling Villa’s need for a more reliable playmaker.

New record-signing Emi Buendia could play behind Ollie Watkins, but Villa’s reported interest in Smith-Rowe suggests Smith sees Buendia playing wide right. It was reported that Villa made at least two bids for Smith-Rowe already this summer, but the 20-year-old will now “100%” sign a new contract with Arsenal.

Bids for Smith-Rowe were believed to be around £30 million, which means United’s valuation of Lingard fits Villa’s buying-a-playmaker budget. The question is: is Lingard prudent business?

Lingard is eight years Smith-Rowe’s senior, and his falling out of the United squad is a natural cause for concern. But anyone who saw Lingard play for West Ham last season knows he’s still packing high-end talent and a seemingly new-found desire to prove his worth.

He can play outside, up top, and through the middle, where Smith would likely play him at Villa. But Lingard’s versatility could prove to be useful, playing in a fluid front-four with Watkins, Buendia, and Jack Grealish.

But the big question is age, isn’t it? Lingard will be 29 in December; is £30 million too much to spend for a player whose natural decline is likely right around the corner? That said, if Lingard could replicate his West Ham form, he would be an asset for Villa as they push for Europe in the immediate future.

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