Aston Villa are yet to make any official signings this month, but they were busy in last season’s January transfer window as Unai Emery got his first real chance to shape the squad through recruitment after arriving the previous autumn.
Villa paid £13.3m to sign Real Betis defender Alex Moreno, and splashed out another £18m on Chicago Fire forward Jhon Duran. 12 months on, the latter is attracting interest from elsewhere in the Premier League – Chelsea have held internal discussions over whether to make a move, and West Ham have lodged a formal approach – but Emery has made his feelings on the attacker quite clear.
Emery says no to Duran approach
According to talkSPORT, Aston Villa have rejected West Ham’s approach for Duran. The Hammers identified the Colombian as a potential target to bolster their frontline, but he now seems to be “off the cards”.
Emery specifically wants to keep Duran as a back-up to Ollie Watkins in the striker position for the remainder of the season at least, and so he’s effectively blocked the transfer.
Duran “dispute” shouldn’t hinder “huge potential”
Duran has appeared in 23 games this season, which sounds like a healthy number on the surface, but his minutes played total (659) offers a clearer reflection of his role in the squad. With more than half the campaign gone, Duran has yet to start a Premier League match, instead appearing 14 times as a substitute.
Emery has given him opportunities elsewhere, including him in the line-up four times in the Europa Conference League group stage and twice in the domestic cups, but he will still surely want more. Indeed, reports in his homeland claimed that he found himself in “dispute” with the club and manager over a lack of opportunities. You wondered if those strained relationships behind the scenes would lead to an exit.
But Duran’s absence from the starting XI is probably more a reflection of Watkins’ heroics, rather than anything he’s done wrong per se. The Englishman has been directly involved in 17 league goals this season, ranking him third in the division. At 20 years old, Duran is much further back in his development, but we still shouldn’t lose sight of his “huge potential” in the words of journalist Pete O’Rourke. After all, this is a player who’s been chasing records for a number of years.
He made his professional debut with Colombian club Envigado at the age of just 15, and would become the second-youngest goalscorer in the history of Liga Dimayor. That led Chicago to make him the youngest foreign signing MLS has ever seen, and he repaid their faith by notching 14 direct goal contributions in 28 appearances.
At the international level, Duran became the fifth-youngest player to appear for the Colombian senior side this century when he made his debut in the autumn of 2022, and he’s since racked up eight caps. On that basis, then, despite the difficulties this season, you can see why Emery wants to persist with this slightly rough diamond.