Aston Villa could sign Dean Smith’s own Olof Mellberg in Fenerbahce powerhouse Attila Szalai.
The Hungary international has firmly established himself as a key part of the Turkish giants’ line-up since joining them in the January transfer window, playing every minute of their last 14 league games.
Hungarian publication Blikk claimed that Dean Smith’s side have joined the race to sign the centre-back this summer, with Newcastle and Leicester also said to be in the running.
Dubbed as “exemplary” and with the “most voice in training” by Fenerbahce boss Emre Belozoglu, the 6 foot 4 Szalai possesses all the raw physical attributes to become a real force in the Premier League much like Mellberg was.
The great Swede became a real icon at Villa, playing seven seasons for the club and being appointed as captain by David O’Leary during the 2003/04 campaign.
As well as being one of the team’s biggest leaders, Mellberg was a defensive stalwart, a “dominant figure” who “rarely made a mistake as he produced commanding displays as a matter of course”, as outlined by the club’s official website.
Szalai possesses much of the same defensive nous, averaging an impressive 1.4 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per game in the Turkish Super Lig – both numbers are higher than any of Villa’s centre-backs in the Premier League this season.
Standing at an imposing 1.92m (6 foot 4), Szalai boasts that same intimidating presence Mellberg had in his prime at Villa Park; and given how quickly he has hit the ground running at Fenerbahce, he may fancy his chances of taking that next step up this summer.
It’s no surprise that Johan Lange is eyeing the 23-year-old as a potential transfer target.