Aston Villa have recently been credited with an interest in Nantes left-back Quentin Merlin, and the youngster could form an excellent duo with Lucas Digne in Steven Gerrard’s side.
According to the Sunday Mirror (05/06, p72), Villa are lining up a move for the 20-year-old defender, with the view of him competing with Digne for a starting spot at Villa Park next season.
The report suggests that Villa scouts were impressed by the defender when sounding out new signing Boubacar Kamara in France and could now look to make him the fifth addition of what has already been a hectic transfer window.
Merlin enjoyed a solid breakthrough campaign with Les Canaris, making 33 appearances last season, in which he contributed two goals and three assists in all competitions.
This included a well-taken goal in a surprise 3-1 win against PSG, which led journalist Josh Bunting to tweet:
“What a goal from Quentin Merlin his first in Ligue 1, incredible technique to make it 2-0.”
The 20-year-old wonderkid is currently valued at £4.5m by Transfermarkt, but he is contracted at the Stade de la Beaujoire until 2026, so it may take a substantial fee for Villa to prise him away this summer.
If he were to make the switch to Villa Park, he could be an excellent deputy for Digne, who joined the club from Everton in the January transfer window, averaging a solid 6.96 rating from WhoScored across his 16 appearances in the Premier League under Gerrard.
The 28-year-old, who was once dubbed “frightening” as a prediction for the future of the French national team by Daniel Storey, has plenty of experience in the Premier League and with Barcelona, so could be an excellent tutor for Merlin as he adapts to English football.
With Matt Targett looking likely to depart Villa Park this summer after spending the second half of last season on loan with Newcastle, Gerrard will need a backup to Digne next season if the Villans are to realise their European ambitions.
If Merlin can produce the sort of form he showed for Nantes in the Premier League with Villa, then he could prove to be a magical addition to Gerrard’s squad, helping to form a magical left-back pairing in the Midlands.