Aston Villa signing Jose Angel Crespo under the spotlight

Aston Villa Sign

La Liga correspondent Heath Chesters takes a look at the background of new Aston Villa signing, Jose Angel Crespo.

Aston Villa swooped to sign defender Jose Angel Crespo this week, with the Spaniard signing a three-year to officially complete his move on Tuesday.

According to English outlets such as The Guardian, Aston Villa have paid a fee of around £500,000 for the 28-year-old, although neither they or his former club Cordoba CF have revealed the exact figure. In Spain, reports suggested the valuation was just under €1 million, which was the release clause in his contract, which works out to just over £700,000.

Whatever the true figure, signing Crespo certainly looks a bargain move. But what is his trajectory, will he be a starter for Aston Villa, or just a backup option?

Early career with Sevilla.

A product of the youth system at Sevilla, there was plenty of promise shown by Crespo as a talented 18-year-old when he first broke into the first-team squad during the 2005-06 season, having impressed greatly with their B team.

It has to be recalled, this was a Sevilla side that featured full-backs Dani Alves and Adriano, before they moved on to Barcelona, with youngster Crespo regarded as a good option to cover them both, given his ability to play on the left or the right.

However, his progress seemed to stall for a while. After four first-team appearances during the 2005-06 campaign, he didn't feature in the first-team squad the following season. The 2007-08 campaign offered plenty of opportunities though, with Crespo making 14 appearances in all competitions. He also represented Spain at with the under-19's, 20's and 21's.

Interestingly, it was in December 2007 that his first links with Aston Villa came about, when Spanish sports outlet Marca reported the player, then 20-years-old, was impressing enough with Sevilla to warrant the interest from England. No bid was forthcoming from Villa Park in the January 2008 transfer window though.

The following season, despite positive performances during the previous campaign, Crespo fell down the defensive pecking order, making just six starts in La Liga and three in the Copa del Rey.

Considered surplus to requirements at the Sanchez-Pizjuan, a loan to Racing Santander followed for the 2009-10 season, but failing to impress and make more than 13 appearances in La Liga, at the end of that campaign, Sevilla decided not to renew his contract.

The Italian job.

With few substantial offers on the table in Spain and weighing up where to move next, an Italian opportunity presented itself with Padova, albeit in Serie B for the 2010-11 season.

That certainly seemed like a good move for Crespo, because after 39 league outings and four in the promotion play-offs, where Padova lost out to Novara in the final, he was offered a step up to Serie A by Bologna.

Another top-flight opportunity beckoned, but one which didn't work out as well as might have been hoped, with Crespo making just 3 starts out of seven total appearances in Serie A, plus two outings in the Coppa Italia.

Having failed to make an impact with the Rossoblu, it was back down to Serie B for the 2012-13 season and a loan with Hellas Verona. Playing opportunities there were also though. Upon his return to Bologna for the 2013-14 season, Crespo still struggled to make an impact in Serie A, making a total of just 8 starts in all competitions.

Homeward bound.

Keen to put what had ultimately been a disappointing four years in Italy behind him, Crespo returned to Spain and joined newly promoted Primera side Cordoba CF. Initially a loan deal, the Andaluz side managed to convert his move into a permanent deal, with the player penning a two-year contract.

Life in the top-flight was once again proving tough for Crespo, although he was at least first-choice with the Blanquiverdes, but their first win of the 2014-15 campaign didn't come until their 8th game of the season.

As the New Year rolled by and with Serbian coach Miroslav Djukic at the helm, Crespo was performing fairly well and so was his team, for a brief spell. After wins against Granada and Rayo Vallecano brought hope, positive form for the player and his team struggling at the wrong end of the table, wasn't to last.

Despite a narrow defeat at home against Real Madrid, in a match which featured Cristiano Ronaldo getting sent-off for punching Crespo in the face, Cordoba wouldn't see victory again for the remainder of the campaign.

In a disastrous second half of the season, which included an 8-0 trouncing at home by Barcelona and 19 games without a win, just two draws and 17 defeats, inevitably Cordoba finished bottom of La Liga and dropped straight back down to the Segunda.

Rocking the boat.

Following their relegation, the inevitable swath of player departures have followed. Seemingly from the minute Cordoba were down, Crespo considering himself destined to leave Nuevo Arcangel, rather than see out his career.

According to the popular but unofficial Cordoba news site, Cordobesismo.com, Crespo made it clear via social networks that he wanted a swift departure. He also told a local radio station: "It's going to be a long summer and until the 31st August, I'll have to keep my suitcase ready."

Crespo also upset his club when he refused to participate in a photo with the rest of his colleagues recently, as they boarded the team bus heading for pre-season training in Campoamor.

Cordobesismo noted: "This was regarded by the club as a lack of respect towards his team-mates and the entity itself, especially after Cordoba were responsible for resurrecting his career and putting him in the top-flight window, after various inglorious seasons outside Spain."

Cordoba briefly announced a deal with Aston Villa for Crespo via their official Twitter account, but interestingly, they didn't publish anything on their official club website, as has been normal practice with other departing players. Clearly they hadn't forgotten or forgiven what they regarded as poor and disrespectful conduct by the player.

Leaving Cordoba as somewhat of a villain, in the eyes of his former club and their fans, he happily now becomes a "Villan" with Aston Villa.

What will Aston Villa be getting for their money?

The biggest attribute Crespo will offer is his defensive versatility. He is comfortably able to operate in any of the back-four positions. During the 2014-15 campaign with Cordoba, he made 14 appearances as a centre-back, 9 as a left-back and 3 at right-back.

One of his main strengths positionally is making interceptions and getting himself in the way of crosses, which would make him better suited for a full-back role with Aston Villa.

With the ball at his feet, although his ball control is quite good, his distribution isn't so great. His preference is often simply to send the ball upfield, simply to clear danger rather than look for a particular target ahead of him.

Overall, despite his early promise several years ago with Sevilla, it's fair to say Crespo is a player who hasn't really progressed much. Certainly not to the kind of level that was promised, predicted or expected.

That might seem a harsh verdict, but in truth Crespo only really offered infrequent glimpses of his ability throughout the 2014-15 campaign with Cordoba, although that appears to have been sufficient enough for Aston Villa to make their move.

Sometimes though, a player can take to a new league and a new challenge, like a duck to water. Aston Villa and their fans, will certainly be hoping that proves to be the case for their latest Spanish recruit.

Opportunity.

Clearly manager Tim Sherwood is pleased with the signing of Crespo. In comments from the Aston Villa boss via the Birmingham Mail, he explained: "Jose is a player who has been on our radar for some time and we're really pleased to secure his signature."

"He is an experienced player who has played in La Liga and Serie A, two of the strongest leagues in Europe, and from speaking to him I know he can't wait to play for Aston Villa."

Crespo will certainly be keen to make the most of this opportunity in England, there's absolutely no doubting that, after he penned what will be a more lucrative deal than he could have hoped for, had he stayed in Spain.

The Spaniard certainly faces plenty of stiff competition for a place in the Villa team, whether it's playing as a centre-back or a full-back. This would seem to suggest his role will primarily be a supporting one, because otherwise, they seem to have stronger players as first-choice options already in the back-four.

Nonetheless and despite what is a surprising move by Aston Villa to sign Crespo, albeit a relatively inexpensive one, the player will provide flexible defensive cover and an additional option as Sherwood formulates his final plans, ahead of the 2015-16 campaign in the Premier League.

Register for ASTON VILLA team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch