Emile Heskey believes Aston Villa may be the ideal destination for Norwich City duo Todd Cantwell and Emi Buendia, speaking exclusively to HITC.
If Norwich fans were hoping that a second Championship title in three years would serve to silence the speculation surrounding their star players, think again.
The Mail reported on Saturday, one week after Daniel Farke’s side secured their return to the Premier League, that England U21 star Cantwell is a £30 million target for Aston Villa.
24 hours later, the Sun (25 April, page 60) claimed that Cantwell’s Carrow Road sparring partner – the twinkle-toed Buendia – is also on Dean Smith’s summer wish list.
Buendia, arguably the finest footballer the Championship has seen since Adel Taarabt’s star burned so brightly at Queens Park Rangers, is valued even higher at £40 million.
No wonder; the Argentine has produced 14 goals and 17 assists during a staggering campaign.
And Heskey believes that a pair of young, talented, technically-gifted attacking midfielders would fit in nicely at Villa Park, especially after Jack Grealish’s ongoing injury problems highlighted a concerning lack of cutting edge in Smith’s squad.
“Ross Barkley came in to really sure up that midfield and give them a bit of creativity but that hasn’t worked out. I think he’ll be going back to Chelsea. So Villa are obviously looking at options to really give them something else if Jack’s not there,” says Heskey, the one-time claret-and-blue striker.
“Cantwell is one of those. He’s been fantastic.
“Buendia is one who can play in several different positions but playing in the Premier League is different than playing in the Championship. Hopefully he can step up to the plate. Villa is probably a really, really good place for him to do that.
“It doesn’t surprise me that teams are looking at players from Norwich. They bring a lot of good young players through, make them superstars and sell them on. Hopefully they’ve got someone who can fill those shoes (if Cantwell and Buendia) leave.”
Heskey points out that, in Smith, Aston Villa have a coach famed for turning potential into top-level talent; see Ezri Konsa, Oli Watkins, Tyrone Mings, Matt Targett and Grealish himself.
So expect Buendia (24) and Cantwell (23) to take their games to a whole new level if they make the journey from East Anglia to Birmingham.
“Villa are building now. You’ve got to take your hat off to Dean Smith and Villa. They now look like a team that is mid-table but really trying to push up into the top eight,” Heskey adds.
“(A manager like Smith is) huge, huge. You start to look at the players who have played under him and they’re all household names now. Douglas Luiz, when he first came in, I thought he was too slow, getting caught on the ball.
“Now, he’s box to box, everything is quick.”
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