With moves for Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Digne this month showing that Aston Villa were keen on strengthening their first team, a subsequent move for young defender Kerr Smith showed that the club have aspirations of strengthening their youth sides as well, adding players who can hopefully grow and develop into future first-team stalwarts.
Taking this into account, it seems as though the Villans have their eye on another young player to come in this month as one for the future, which would be a source of great excitement for the fans.
As per a recent Twitter post from Alan Nixon, Villa are “watching” Sunderland’s 20-year-old midfielder Dan Neil, who the journalist suggested could be the “new Gerrard” for the Midlands club.
Nixon also mentioned that fellow Premier League club Burnley are “already sniffing” around the Black Cats youngster over a potential transfer.
As a product of Sunderland’s youth academy, Neil has made 98 appearances for the Wearsiders across their youth and senior teams, with 41 of them coming in their first team, showing how highly he is rated at the Stadium on light.
In those 98 appearances, Neil has chipped in with five goals and nine assists along the way, showing his attacking capabilities from the midfield.
With only Ross Stewart having made more appearances in League One than Neil this season, this shows just how important the 20-year-old is for Lee Johnson’s side and why they could be reluctant to let him go, especially halfway through the season as they chase promotion to the Championship.
His performances in those gamees could be an indication as to why Villa are apparently looking at him. WhoScored list him as Sunderland’s joint-fifth highest rated player with an overall rating of 6.85/10, which would also put him fifth-highest among Villa’s squad when counting those to have featured in more than one Premier League game. Therefore, the Midlands club’s fan base may be buzzing to see such a capable player being linked with a move to Villa Park.
While the opportunity to join a Premier League club and potentially learn under the management of Steven Gerrard could be tempting for a young player like Neil, it seems a likelier scenario that he would be more open to leaving Sunderland at the end of the current season if they don’t manage to secure promotion from League One.