Emery targets reunion with LaLiga's creative midfield architect

Unai Emery
Unai Emery / Mike Hewitt/GettyImages

Aston Villa have set their sights on Villarreal's midfield maestro Alex Baena as they look to bolster their squad ahead of the upcoming season.

The 22-year-old Spaniard has caught the eye of Villa manager Unai Emery, who previously worked with Baena during his time at Villarreal.

Baena has been in scintillating form this season, leading La Liga in assists with an impressive tally of 13 across all competitions. His performances have not gone unnoticed, as he recently earned his first cap for the Spanish national team in August 2023.

The young midfielder's ability to operate in four different attacking positions has drawn praise from journalist Josh Bunting, who described Baena as a "beautiful technician."

Villa's interest in Baena comes as no surprise, given Emery's admiration for the rising star. The former Villarreal boss has advised the Midlands club to pursue Baena's signature, viewing him as a versatile attacking midfielder who could fill a creative role similar to that of Martin Odegaard at Arsenal.

Alex Baena
Alex Baena / Aitor Alcalde Colomer/GettyImages

However, securing Baena's services may prove challenging. In January 2023, the Spaniard penned a new contract with Villarreal until 2028, which includes a substantial release clause of around £52 million. It remains unclear whether the Yellow Submarine would demand the full amount for their prised asset.

Baena's potential arrival at Villa Park could have implications for the future of Nicolo Zaniolo, who is currently on loan from Galatasaray. The club has yet to decide on making Zaniolo's move permanent, and Baena's signing could influence their decision.

This season, Baena has showcased his versatility, contributing 5 goals and 13 assists in 40 appearances across all competitions for Villarreal. His creative spark and technical ability have made him a key player for the Spanish side, and it is no wonder that Aston Villa are keen to bring him to the Premier League.

As the summer transfer window approaches, Aston Villa will be hoping to leverage Emery's connection with Baena to lure him to Villa Park. The Midlands club will face stiff competition for his signature, but the prospect of working with Emery once again could prove enticing for the young Spaniard.

If Aston Villa can secure Baena's services, it would be a major coup for the club as they look to build a squad capable of challenging for European football.

The 22-year-old's creativity, technical ability, and versatility would add a new dimension to Villa's attacking play and provide Emery with a player who can unlock defences and create chances for his teammates.