Aston Villa could sign their new Gareth Southgate in Manchester United defender Axel Tuanzebe this summer.
Reports in recent weeks have claimed that the centre-back could be set for a reunion with Dean Smith, having, of course, played under the Villa boss during their time in the Championship.
And now, Football Insider have delivered an update on the £50k-a-week earning defender’s situation, saying that: “A Villa source has told Football Insider that the club have been given encouragement that United are planning to let Tuanzebe go in the current window. The 20-times champions have been sounded out by Villa over a potential deal and they will listen to offers if they can secure a replacement.”
Ranked by Aston Villa’s official club website as their 15th best ever player back in 2011, the current England boss and EURO 2020 hero Southgate may not be the most popular man at Villa Park given the way things ended, but there’s no questioning the quality he brought to the table as a centre-back.
That profile piece said: “Very much the thinking man’s footballer, he was one of the most cultured defenders every to wear a Villa shirt, giving the club superb service over a six-year period. And even after he had asked for a transfer in the summer of 2000, he still performed immaculately the following season before finally moving to Middlesbrough.
“He immediately struck up a fine understanding alongside Paul McGrath and Ugo Ehiogu in a three-man defence, and that trio provided the backbone to his successful debut campaign, in which Villa finished fourth in the Premiership, reached the FA cup semi-finals and won the League Cup with an emphatic 3-0 Wembley victory over Leeds United.
“Appointed club captain following Andy Townsend’s departure to Middlesbrough, Southgate led Villa to the 2000 FA Cup final, the last at the old Wembley Stadium, where they lost 1-0 to Chelsea. His transfer request on the eve of Euro 2000 made him unpopular with Villa fans but he continued to produce excellent performances before heading for Teesside.”
And in Tuanzebe, Villa could find someone who also has the leadership skills to become a real force at Villa Park, but also have the technical ability to be very much a modern-day centre-half.
The £7.2m-rated ace came in for some big praise from United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer earlier last season after helping to PSG’s Kylian Mbappe, who lauded both his ability and his character.
He said: “Axel’s a tremendous defender, a great leader. He’s come through the academy and we’ve known for years that he’s going to be a top player for us and he’s got the character and the attitude that a Man United player should have. Sometimes you’ll get in a foot race with Mbappe and you have to run with him and we know Axel’s qualities, he’s a top defender.”
While he may not have had too many minutes in the Premier League last year, Tuanzebe showed exactly why Villa are after him, averaging 1.4 tackles per game and boasting an impressive 88.6% pass accuracy – as per Whoscored, both of those stats are actually better than Ezri Konsa and Tyrone Mings.
While Southgate may be in the manager’s dugout now as England take on Italy in the final of EURO 2020 on Sunday, Tuanzebe could well arrive at Villa Park aiming to replicate the success the former centre-back had at the club.