Rafa Benitez must take advantage of Aston Villa situation and sign Conor Hourihane

Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez was once interested in signing Aston Villa midfielder Conor Hourihane when he was at Barnsley, and the Spaniard should return to sign the Republic of Ireland international following reports about the Championship club’s financial troubles.

What’s the word, then?

Conor Hourihane celebrates goal vs Sunderland

Well, the Daily Mail reported during the 2017 January transfer window that the 27-year-old was a transfer target for the Toon and Benitez as they looked to boost their promotion push, but Hourihane ended up joining their league rivals at the time instead.

However, after failing to win promotion to the Premier League during the 2017/18 campaign having lost to Fulham in the play-off final, reports have emerged that they are in big financial difficulty which could mean that their players are up for grabs.

Benitez, whose team will gatecrash the top 8 in the top flight next term if the Spaniard signs these three players, will be looking to strengthen his squad this summer to improve upon the 10th-place finish they achieved in their first season back in the top flight, and the former Tyke could provide some much-needed competition for the likes of Mo Diame and Ayoze Perez in the middle of the park.

How did Hourihane do during the 2017/18 season?

He was impressive as a regular in Steve Bruce’s midfield, and he helped them get close to the Premier League return that they so desperately wanted.

The 27-year-old scored 11 goals – including a hat-trick in the 4-2 win against Norwich City in August – and provided a further two assists in the centre of the park for the Villans, and showed that the has all of the attributes needed to play as either a central midfielder or more of a central attacking midfielder.

Why would he be a good Newcastle signing?

The Republic of Ireland international would provide Perez with the competition he was lacking last season, and he has shown that he can bring a real goal threat – especially in terms of set-pieces and strikes from outside of the penalty area.

At 27 years of age, Hourihane also has his peak time of his career ahead of him and if Villa’s financial troubles are as serious as has been reported, he could be picked up for a reasonable fee this summer.