Aston Villa ahead of Liverpool in pursuit of £40m Bundesliga wonderkid

1. FSV Mainz 05 v SV Darmstadt 98 - Bundesliga
1. FSV Mainz 05 v SV Darmstadt 98 - Bundesliga / Neil Baynes/GettyImages

Aston Villa are reportedly in pole position to secure the signing of highly-rated young talent Brajan Gruda from Bundesliga side Mainz according to Bild. The 20-year-old forward has caught the attention of several top European clubs, making this potential acquisition a significant move for Unai Emery's squad.

Unai Emery's side has been very active in the summer transfer window, already securing the services of Lewis Dobbin, Enzo Barrenechea, Samuel Iling-Junior, Ross Barkley, and Ian Maatsen. Despite these additions, Villa are keen to further strengthen their squad to cope with the demands of the upcoming season, which includes Champions League football.

Gruda, born in 2004, has emerged as one of the most exciting prospects in European football. The Mainz attacker, who can play as a right-winger or centrally, had a breakthrough season in 2023/24, scoring four goals and providing three assists in 29 appearances. His impressive performances have not gone unnoticed, with clubs like Liverpool, Newcastle United, Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig, and Bayer Leverkusen also showing interest.

Despite the stiff competition, Aston Villa appear to be leading the race for Gruda's signature. The club's ability to offer more senior-level playing time is seen as a significant advantage. Villa's long-term strategy of signing players they can develop and potentially sell on aligns well with Gruda's profile.

Emery's track record of nurturing young talent and helping them reach their full potential could be a deciding factor in Gruda's decision. The opportunity to work under a respected manager and be part of an exciting project at Villa Park may sway the young forward in favour of the Midlands club.

According to Forbes, Gruda is considered one of the best young prospects globally. His statistics back this up, ranking in the top 10% for progressive carries per 90 minutes and in the top 2% for successful take-ons among his positional peers in Europe. These metrics highlight his exceptional dribbling ability and direct style of play.

Gruda's ability to carry the ball forward and beat defenders in one-on-one situations makes him a valuable asset in modern football. His skill set aligns perfectly with Emery's attacking philosophy, which emphasises quick transitions and creating overloads in the final third.

Should Aston Villa meet Mainz's £43m asking price, they would be securing a raw yet immensely talented winger. Under Emery's guidance, Gruda's goal-scoring output could see a substantial improvement, ultimately making his price tag appear a bargain in the long run.

The current transfer market has seen prices for young, promising players skyrocket in recent years. However, Gruda's potential to develop into a world-class player makes the £43m fee a worthwhile investment for Aston Villa. If the club can help him realise his full potential, they could have a player on their hands who is worth significantly more in the future.

Aston Villa's recruitment strategy, as highlighted by Villa reporter John Townley, focuses on signing players who can be improved and potentially sold on. This approach helps the club stay ahead in terms of Player Sales Revenue (PSR) issues and ensures effective succession planning.

By identifying and acquiring talented young players like Gruda, Villa can benefit from their development both on and off the pitch. As these players improve and gain experience, their value in the transfer market increases, allowing the club to generate significant funds through player sales. This strategy enables Villa to reinvest in the squad and maintain a competitive edge in the long term.

If the club can complete the transfer and provide Gruda with the right environment to flourish, they may have secured the services of a future star.