Aston Villa coup as they nick Barcelona’s director of football

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag reviews the Aston Villa game

Aston Villa are close to pulling off a major coup by finalising a deal for departing Barcelona director of football Mateu Alemany to join them in advance of next season, according to reports. It was confirmed on Tuesday that Alemany will be leaving the Nou Camp a year ahead of schedule in order to pursue a new ‘professional project’ after spending two seasons with the Catalan giants.

The 60-year-old, who previously worked for Valencia and Malaga, has overseen player recruitment at Barcelona throughout a difficult period for the club as a result of their well-documented financial difficulties. It seems likely that he will soon be getting ready to take on a new challenge in the Premier League, with The Athletic reporting that Villa are close to finalising his capture ahead of the new campaign.

It is said that Alemany’s impending arrival will not necessarily have an impact on the future of Villa’s current sporting director, Johan Lange, who is reportedly held in the highest regard by the powers that be in the west Midlands. Jordi Cruyff has occupied the same position alongside Alemany at Barcelona over the last few years, which suggests that the latter may be tasked with working alongside Lange to lead Villa’s summer recruitment drive over the coming months.

Damia Vidagany, the personal assistant of Villa head coach Unai Emery, previously spent time with Valencia while Alemany was at the club and is seemingly poised to be reunited with the outgoing Barcelona chief at Villa Park later this year. Alemany has never worked alongside Emery but the duo both have extensive experience of top-level football in Spain and will be hoping to strike up a fruitful partnership in England over the next few months and years.

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Alemany was previously linked with a high-profile role at Newcastle United, who had reportedly identified him as the right man to lead their sporting project under the guidance of their Saudi owners back in 2021. A move to St James’ Park never materialised, though, and he ended up joining Barcelona following his exit from Valencia two years prior.

It remains to be seen how Alemany will fare upon his impending switch to Villa Park, with the club aiming to keep improving under Emery’s management as they look to qualify for Europe before the current campaign draws to a close. They are only two points adrift of fifth-placed Liverpool in the Premier League table as things stand and will have high hopes of competing in one of UEFA’s three continental tournaments when next season rolls around later this year.

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Emery insisted after Villa’s dramatic victory over Leicester last month that he is considering a top-six finish as a genuine target, although he conceded that it will be no easy feat to finish ahead of teams like Brighton, Tottenham and Liverpool at the end of the season.

“With those last three victories we have added nine points in the table and now we can add another step, in thinking about being a candidate for the European positions,” said Emery. “It is going to be very difficult because Brighton and Brentford are playing very well.

“We are now with them and Chelsea and Liverpool too. They have to fight to be in Europe next year and are going to react, I think, but we can have ambition and motivation to try and be a candidate.”

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