El Ghazi has chance to prove why he was once linked with Liverpool & Man United

Aston Villa’s football last season was built on the foundation of hard workers and a reliable attitude.

Therefore, to see a player who arrived in England with apparent attitude problems help his team achieve promotion was rather remarkable.

Anwar El Ghazi was the hero at Wembley, overcoming a rather inconsistent middle part of the season where he frustrated, to issue a sincere reminder of the supreme talent he has in the play-off final.

He popped up with a header at the back post, bundling the ball into the back of the net for a goal rather untypical of the Dutchman.

El Ghazi was the flashy loan addition of last summer, but after admitting his love for the club, he’s now a permanent part of the furniture, becoming their second transfer of the current window.

However, he initially arrived at Villa Park last term as someone who had failed to live up to the hype. He scored four goals for Lille in 2017/18, but ultimately he was still branded disappointing and frustrating.

That so-called hype stemmed from the fact he was once a part of Ajax’s wonderful academy.

We got a glimpse of the calibre of players they produce during their recent run to the Champions League semi-final. Chief amongst them were Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt and Donny van de Beek.

El Ghazi is older than de Jong and de Ligt but, when he broke through in Amsterdam, he attracted a level hype that isn’t too far away from what the aforementioned pairing have made in the past twelve months.

This was a player who had scored seven in 11 U19 Eredivisie matches and would then go onto shine at senior level for the Dutch giants.

For Ajax, he was a rising star, netting 20 goals and claiming ten assists across the course of two seasons in 2014/15 and 2015/16.

It was a period of his career in which he scored against Barcelona in Europe at the Nou Camp and a time when he was linked with a move to Liverpool and Manchester United no less.

So as Aston Villa gear up for a return to the Premier League with El Ghazi in the palm of their hands, it could have been a completely different story.

When he was still a teenager, he was one of the best up and coming players at Ajax. You only need to look at the stats for proof of that.

But focusing on what could have been will be pointless for El Ghazi.

His Premier League chance could have come in 2016 but instead it’ll fall for him in 2019. Arguably, he has never been more ready.

Last term, he scored six goals and picked up six assists for his troubles. The numbers are hardly outstanding, especially when you consider some of Villa’s prior transfer targets in Harry Wilson and Said Benrahma reached 16 and ten goals respectively.

But that being said, El Ghazi has the know-how and experience to perform at the top level.

He is a player who thrives on pressure situations and on the big stages.  The fact he’s scored at Wembley and at the Nou Camp tells you all you need to know.

And with that in mind, the top-flight could be the perfect opportunity for him.

He now has the chance to prove exactly why he was being touted with moves to some of England’s elite clubs in 2015.

At Lille and in the Championship he’s had a period away from the limelight. He’s taken a back seat and unlike players who end up dwindling away in the lower leagues after a promising start to their career, he is back in the big time.

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Potential concerns surrounding his consistency, however, need to be swatted away.

Similarly technically gifted players like Helder Costa and Anthony Knockaert tore the Championship apart but have since faded into mediocrity.

Costa scored 15 in the second tier but only has one goal in the Premier League. The latter, meanwhile, has just five after netting 33 for Brighton in the level below.

They are prime examples of players who simply aren’t cut out for that level.

But the difference with El Ghazi is that he is cut out for it. He’s performed at a high level before.

Villa have given him an overriding sense of confidence, and after regaining his purpose with the club, he now has the perfect platform to demonstrate why Liverpool and Man United were once chasing him.

In the Premier League, he has the potential to be their difference-maker.

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