Ron Vlaar’s Aston Villa future has been the subject of much speculation following his starring performances for the Netherlands at the World Cup, with the centre-back since linked to a host of top European clubs.
With the likes of Juventus, Lazio, Manchester United, Roma, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur all reported to have been pursuing his signature over the summer, Villa somehow managed to hold onto their star captain past the transfer deadline, but the battle to keep him in a claret and blue shirt remains far from over.
Having entered the final season of his contract, the two sides are still to enter serious negotiations over a renewal, and the latest suggestions are that even a proposed £50,000-per-week deal won’t be enough to keep him at Villa Park.
With Manchester United on the lookout for defensive reinforcements, it’s no secret that former Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal remains keen to reunite with Vlaar, and is reported to be preparing a bid as soon as the coming transfer window, in order to beat off other potential summer suitors.
After witnessing several high-profile departures over recent seasons, most fans would no doubt be despondent to see another club stalwart leave in similar circumstances but, on this occasion, it might just prove a wise move on Villa’s part.
Taking on the captaincy just weeks after his £3.25 million arrival from Feyenoord in August 2012, Vlaar’s leadership has been vital to Paul Lambert’s inexperienced side over the past two relegation-threatened campaigns, with his veteran presence helping organise an otherwise chaotic back-line.
Nevertheless, while his Premier League performances have been commendable, it’s also fair to suggest that his showing in Brazil helped inflate his reputation to a considerable degree, as has proven the case for countless other World Cup stars over previous tournaments.
Aged 29, he is no spring chicken and, having dealt with several injuries over the past two seasons, there are few reasons to believe that he is going to improve upon his solid but unspectacular outings over the coming campaigns.
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Sidelined for the past six weeks with an on-going calf issue, Villa managed to record a 1-0 league win at Anfield in the Dutchman’s first game out and, though the club have since suffered three successive defeats to Champions League regulars Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, respectively, the central defensive pairing of Philippe Senderos and Nathan Baker has in fact earned creditable reviews.
With the team now taking a sensible approach to their finances, it’s understandable that management would be reluctant to hand Vlaar such a sizeable new deal at this point and, should someone stump up a tempting offer in a few months' time, then one can’t blame them for wanting to cash in, rather than risk losing him for nothing in the summer.
What's more, if Van Gaal is as desperate for a reunion as is being rumoured then it's not hard to envisage United coming in with a traditional big bid to get their man, at a time when his sell-on value is perhaps at its peak.
With Senderos outperforming pessimistic expectations, Baker at least showing potential, the promising Okore nearing a first-team return, Ciaran Clark in reserve and Tranmere Rovers loanee Janoi Donacien waiting in the wings, there is enough immediate cover to suggest that Villa can survive for the second-half without him, even before taking into account the potential arrival of reinforcements.
Selling Vlaar is far from the ideal scenario of course but, taking into account all the factors at hand, it could be the more sensible decision in the long-run.