Aston Villa will push for £60million Kalvin Phillips signing this summer - but move is complicated

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Aston Villa will push for £60million Kalvin Phillips signing this summer - but move is complicated - Action Images via Reuters
Aston Villa will push for £60million Kalvin Phillips signing this summer - but move is complicated - Action Images via Reuters

Aston Villa will make another attempt to sign Kalvin Phillips this summer, three years after Leeds resisted their bids for the England international.

Phillips is emerging as Steven Gerrard’s leading target ahead of next season with Villa prepared to pay a club record £60 million.

At least one new defensive midfielder is regarded as a priority, and it is the position Villa have struggled to fill since promotion back to the Premier League in 2019.

Gerrard’s predecessor Dean Smith moved for Phillips after achieving promotion via the Championship play-off final, and the absence of a proven player who can protect the defence remains a big problem.

Without a defensive midfielder, there is often a huge hole between defence and attack due to the offensive qualities of players such as John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey, and it was again blatantly obvious at Molineux on Saturday.

Gerrard wants a player who will ‘screen’ in front of his back-four and move Villa up the pitch, and Phillips possesses all the qualities required.

Villa’s move for Phillips will be complicated, with Leeds determined to keep the talismanic midfielder and their resolve likely to be emboldened by avoiding relegation to the Championship.

Yves Bissouma is also on Villa's target list - Offside via Getty Images
Yves Bissouma is also on Villa's target list - Offside via Getty Images

Leeds had been in talks with the 26-year-old over a new contract but those negotiations have stalled, and Villa are ready to make their move at the end of the season.

With uncertainty over the future of Villa’s Brazilian international Douglas Luiz, Gerrard is also set to make a renewed move to sign Brighton’s Yves Bissouma.

Brighton rejected a £25 million offer from Villa in January and are facing the prospect of losing Bissouma this summer, when he will have only 12 months left on his contract.

Gerrard, meanwhile, will use the final eight games of the season to assess who can be part of his plans ahead of the next campaign.

Villa’s defeat at Wolves was their third in a row, their worst sequence of results since Gerrard’s appointment in November, and European ambitions have disappeared.

Another busy summer appears inevitable, with Villa’s ambitious owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens already spending over £400 million since the club’s return to the top division.

Gerrard said: “What the owners have done for this club has been phenomenal in terms of the support, the backing. I don’t think they’ll change because of the dealings I’ve had and the communication I’ve had, they’re very ambitious and they want to win football matches, like myself.

“I think we are aligned from the top of the club to bottom. There is work going on in the background. My close staff all know where we are strong and where we need support, whether that be an individual area or a certain unit in the team.

“It’s not about talking about figures and amounts right now. It’s not the time now to say ‘they’re going to do this, they’re going to do that’, we’re off the back of a defeat and we have to accept that and move on.”

Villa could still secure their first top-10 finish in the Premier League since 2011 but Gerrard will be feeling a sense of frustration over how this season has fizzled out.

From the majestic display at Leeds last month to the first-half at Molineux at Saturday, the inconsistencies of this team are difficult for Gerrard to accept.

“I know I’ve got good players and the core of a good team but for sure I know there is work to do,” he said.

“We have to work with the team. The team has to respond from the three defeats, we have to stand up and be counted and try and put in a really big performance because next week against top opposition [Tottenham], a 45-minute performance won’t get us what we need.

“We need to find that second-half performance over 90 minutes. If we do it will give us a chance - no guarantees - but it will give us a chance.”

Wolves remain in contention for a place in Europe next season, with a potentially pivotal run of fixtures this month.

After this weekend’s trip to Newcastle, they face Burnley and Brighton, and Bruno Lage will then be acutely aware how good their chances are.

Wolves were excellent in the first half against Villa, taking the lead through Jonny’s fine effort and then moving further in front after an Ashley Young own goal.

Ollie Watkins’s late penalty ensured a dramatic finish but Wolves should never have been in the position to draw the game.

Lage said: “The most important thing is to continue to play between now until the end of May, play this way, because this way we believe will give us goals and points, and if at the end we finish in the positions, we accept the challenge to go to Europe.”