After bringing him to the club back in the summer of 2015, then Aston Villa boss Tim Sherwood made it clear just how “delighted” he was at getting a deal done for Jordan Veretout.
He said: “He has played over 140 games in Ligue 1 and is a really exciting young player. I know Veretout is very highly rated over in France, so we are delighted to get this deal over the line.”
But a year later however, and things hadn’t turned out the way either the player or the club would have wanted at Villa Park, with the team going through a roller-coaster period of managerial changes and relegation from the Premier League as well.
In the end, the Frenchman was shipped out on loan, before eventually sealing a more permanent exit away from the club when he joined Serie A outfit Fiorentina for around £6m in 2017.
Since then, he has been nothing short of incredible, enjoying an impressive rise which is now seeing him shine for one of Italian football’s biggest clubs in AS Roma – the kind of upturn in form that surely has Villa fans wondering ‘what if?’.
Last season saw him develop into an elite goal-scoring midfielder, netting ten times in 29 games in the Serie A alone, including a match-saving brace against Juventus in a 2-2 draw.
This campaign has seen him start off in a similar fashion, bagging three goals in just two league games – a couple of those came in a win against his former club Fiorentina.
It’s no surprise, then, that his market value has shot up considerably, with Transfermarkt now rating him at £29.7m – almost five times the amount for which Villa actually sold him.
While things didn’t quite work out at Villa Park, there were some behind the scenes who did see his potential, with caretaker manager Kevin McDonald, in particular, saying: “Jordan is a wonderful passer of the ball. He will get better. And he is looking to impose himself in training games. Now he has to do that over a period of time. If he does that, he will be a very, very good player.
“Glenn Hoddle didn’t have to run up and down the pitch. But he was the most wonderful passer this country had in a long, long time. It’s not about being a holding midfielder or an attacking midfielder – Jordan needs to be a midfielder who gets on the ball more than anybody else in the team.”
Niggling injuries didn’t help his cause, but the 28-year-old didn’t even take to the pitch for any of Villa’s last seven Premier League games of the 2015/2016 season, not even making the matchday squad in four of them.
When you see the way he is shining now, though, there must surely be a sense of regret that they couldn’t keep hold of Veretout or ever get to see the best of him at Villa Park.
Given Dean Smith tried to sign a new central midfielder this summer in Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse, had Villa not cashed in on Veretout, they may well have had that part of their squad addressed.