Fenerbahce manager Vitor Pereira has delivered Aston Villa a blow in their pursuit of Attila Szalai.
Fenerbahce manager Vitor Pereira has made it clear that he does not want Aston Villa target Attila Szalai to leave the club this summer. He is pleading with the bosses of the Turkish club to avoid selling the centre-back as he will be a crucial player in their title charge next season.
“We are on the road with the goal of championship. Szalai is also one of our best players. He will be one of the names we will receive the biggest contribution on this path. I need Szalai for the championship goal.”
“The club’s interests are obviously important, but I think Szalai should stay with us this season, no matter how good the offer.”
Villa boss Dean Smith will be gutted by these quotes from Pereira as it makes it appear unlikely that Szalai will be leaving Fenerbahce this summer, or at least not for a reasonable transfer fee.
Johan Lange could swoop in and offer a ridiculous amount of cash to change their mind, but that is not likely for a player who could only come in as a backup option at first.
Tyrone Mings and Ezri Konsa are Villa’s first-choice partnership at centre-back and started 36 and 35 games respectively in the Premier League, with Kortney Hause playing seven matches as the third choice. Beyond that, Smith has no senior options in that position following the departure of Bjorn Engels. This means that there is a space in Smith’s squad for a centre-back to come in and compete with the starters.
Szalai, on paper, could be the perfect fit for that role. He has never played in a top-five European league and is only 23, which means that he would not arrive as a marquee addition expecting to play every game. Therefore, he would likely know that he has to be patient and wait for his chance, allowing Villa to bed him in before giving him his opportunity to shine.
Former Fenerbahce coach Emre Belozoglu labelled Szalai as exemplary earlier this year before his departure, praising his attitude on and off the pitch.
“We received very quick feedback on Attila Szalai and Dimitris Pelkas. Szalai, who made the loudest noise in training as if he had been playing for Fenerbahçe for years, and joined us last. These names are very exemplary players.”
The Hungary international has also shown potential for club and country that suggests he could eventually become a key player for Villa. In the Nations League, Szalai averaged a phenomenal WhoScored rating of 7.26, making 2.8 tackles, 2.4 interceptions and 3.4 clearances and one block per game. He also averaged a WhoScored rating of 7.10 in their World Cup qualifiers, averaging an impressive 3.3 interceptions per game.
Mings and Konsa, meanwhile, averaged scores of 6.81 and 6.75 in the Premier League for Villa. The £14k-per-week beast could eventually prove to be an upgrade on either of the pair, if he is able to adapt to English football and find his form in the Premier League. This is why Smith will be disappointed that a deal for the Hungarian is now seemingly off the cards.
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