Carney Chukwuemeka is no closer to signing a new contract at Premier League strugglers Aston Villa as pressure rises on manager Dean Smith, as reported by The Athletic.
It was a moment that called to mind a clash between Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford a decade ago.
On that fateful New Year’s Eve afternoon, Sir Alex Ferguson opted to shoehorn Park Ji-sung into an injury-hit midfield rather than hand an opportunity to a teenage Paul Pogba.
Seven months later Pogba joined Juventus, turning down a new contract after growing disillusioned with his role at United.
That Blackburn omission, it seems, was the final straw.
“It was a very difficult decision (to leave United). It wasn’t the contract but more like the trust with the manager,” Pogba, now in his second spell at Man United, would tell the club’s official podcast years later.
“There was no midfield here – people were injured, (Paul) Scholes wasn’t there. Rafael played in midfield with Park Ji-sung and I didn’t come on in this game (against Blackburn). We lost the game.
“I was on the bench warming up and thought I would come on – it was a big opportunity for me.
“I didn’t (come on). The manager has a choice in everything but that day is when I had my heart broken.”
Could Carney Chukwuemeka go the same way at Aston Villa as Paul Pogba did at Man United?
Now, this doesn’t mean Chukwuemeka is destined to leave Aston Villa on the back of his no-show against West Ham United on Sunday.
The situations are similar but not identical. For one, Chukwuemeka has another 18 months left on his contract compared with the seven remaining on Pogba’s in 2011/12.
But with Aston Villa desperate to tie down one of the most exciting young talents in British football – one who has already caught the eye of Bayern Munich, Liverpool and, ironically, Juventus – Smith’s decision to field 36-year-old Ashley Young out of position ahead of Chukwuemeka during Sunday’s 4-1 defeat won’t make those contract talks any easier.
Chukwuemeka has played just one Premier League game all season.
And like Pogba all those years ago, a swaggering, potentially generation-defining midfield talent will want assurances over his role before he puts pen to paper on a new long-term deal.
Smith’s decision to overlook him – and plump for an almost 40-year-old winger instead – might be one Aston Villa come to regret.