Unai Emery has not been at Aston Villa for long, but there are already arising concerns over tension with a star player, with his long-term future at the outfit consequently destabilised.
Football Insider has revealed that sources have detailed a rift between Villa’s number one shot-stopper Emiliano Martinez and the new manager, with the pair reported to have been embroiled in conflict when both were at Arsenal.
The news comes as a bitter surprise to the Villa faithful, who are enamoured with their goalkeeper after he has emerged as one of the Premier League’s finest between the sticks since signing from Arsenal for £17m in 2020.
And with the winter transfer window looming, the mill is indeed grinding, hinting that Emery has already identified a replacement for the unsettled ace.
In a report from Football Insider stemming one week prior to the Martinez revelations, it was established that the Claret and Blue have been keeping tabs on Europa League winner Yassine Bounou.
Considered a late bloomer, even for a goalkeeper, Bounou spent much of his early career on the periphery, failing to break into Atletico Madrid’s first-team and spending multiple terms on loan in the Spanish Segunda division.
However, the 31-year-old has since risen to prominence with Sevilla, winning the Europa League and serving as the ‘keeper for Morocco during the ongoing 2022 World Cup, where he has brilliantly kept clean sheets against Croatia and Belgium thus far.
The Spanish Emery, who managed Sevilla several seasons ago, winning three consecutive Europa League trophies, is believed to hold admiration for the £26m-rated Moroccan and could attempt to strike a deal in the coming months, looking to instil a winning mentality and replacing an unsteady relationship with the current starter in Martinez.
Despite his late start, Bounou, who was labelled a “monster” by journalist Ives Galarcep has become an integral part of the Sevilla team having made 120 appearances across all competitions since his arrival in 2019 on an initial loan deal; a pivotal cog in the 2019/20 Europa League triumph, he certainly fits the mould of player that Emery is looking to bring to Villa Park.
The deal is complicated by Villa’s current Argentinian shot-stopper signing a new five-year deal in January, with the hierarchy and previous manager Steven Gerrard looking to ward away interest from circling clubs.
And indeed the 21-cap Martinez, who himself was instrumental in Argentina’s monumental Copa America Triumph last year, subsequently heralded as “one of the best goalkeepers in the world” by compatriot Lionel Messi, will likely wish to remain with the club that has offered him the chance to flourish with regularity.
Emery is a coach who is a proven winner, and he has already offered glimpses of excellence at Villa despite his recent arrival, and the board will likely grant his reasonable wishes to steer the ship in the direction of his choosing.
Whether this is enough to uproot the established goalkeeper is obscure, but with a prospective replacement already identified and tensions bubbling at the surface, there could indeed be a new figure at the bedrock of Aston Villa, as Emery tinkers away at his team.