As Aston Villa embark on a new era under the stewardship of Unai Emery, you can’t help but feel as if he could have benefitted from one of Steven Gerrard’s mooted transfer targets.
Back in November 2021, the Midlands outfit were linked with a move for VfB Stuttgart wing-back Borna Sosa, who was available for around £26m due to the precarious finances at the German side.
The 24-year-old from Zagreb still remains at Die Roten in the Bundesliga and his domestic form earned him a place in Croatia’s squad for the World Cup.
The Vatreni kickstarted their Group F campaign with a 0-0 stalemate against Morrocco and now face Canada before a likely crunch match with one of the potential tournament favourites in Belgium.
Despite the draw, Sosa was one of Zlatko Dalic’s shining lights at left wing-back, leaving many around Villa Park pondering what might’ve been.
The 6 foot 2 dynamo was a constant threat at both ends of the pitch as he looked to help seal a breakthrough and whilst his efforts weren’t able to bear fruits, he certainly caught the eye.
As per FBref, Sosa enjoyed a 100% dribble success rate down the left flank, showing that he was hard to dispossess and that he often beat his man due to his ability on the ball.
The Croat also registered four progressive passes – a feat that was only topped by veteran Luka Modric and Josko Gvardiol – and a squad-high expected assists of 0.5, highlighting his creativity in the final third, despite being deployed as a full-back behind Ivan Perisic.
By sitting deeper, his defensive attributes were called into question at times, playing up against Hakim Ziyech of Chelsea, but he was solid as an ox, registering three tackles (second-most) and five clearances (joint-most).
Sosa was just one of two players to register an xA above 0.0, which goes to show just how crucial he was to Croatia’s attacking output.
It makes Gerrard’s decision to not sign him on the cheap last year look even worse. Whilst many will be happy with the arrival of Lucas Digne in the role, at 24, the Stuttgart gem appears to be a real star for the long-term future.
Indeed, the dynamic wing-back has been praised as a “crossing machine” by journalist Ronan Murphy as well as a “real weapon” by sporting director Sven Mislintat – and not just that but some have even compared him to England great David Beckham.
Therefore, the former Villa boss certainly had a massive mare by not bringing Sosa to Villa Park. The dangerman could well have plenty more to display as the World Cup heads into game week two later today.
AND in other news, Emery heading for first transfer disaster as Villa eye £525k-p/w flop…