Transfer Rumour Round-Up: Day 13
The priority for Louis van Gaal and Manchester United in this month's transfer window is abundantly clear. The Red Devils need a first choice centre-back having started no less than six players in that position on more than 5 occasions in the league this season - two of which had never started a top-flight league match in their careers prior to the current campaign.
With Van Gaal favouring a 3-5-2 formation a lack of quality in that position has been an issue all season, with the Red Devils hitting a stumbling block after a fine run of results to win just one of their last five league matches. The latest name to be linked with a move to Old Trafford is Athletic's Aymeric Laporte, who, alongside compatriot Raphael Varane - another player on Van Gaal's apparent wish list - is considered one of the finest young centre-backs in Europe, let alone La Liga.
At just 20 the Frenchman has been a mainstay for Athletic Club for the last two seasons and it isn't hard to see why, with an average rating of 7.15 from WhoScored.com in that time. With realistic aspirations of a return to the Champions League the defender's score of 7.08 in Europe's elite club competition this season will also be reassuring to the Red Devils, and with a strength of 'passing' - alongside 'tackling' and 'ball interception', averaging the second most in La Liga per game this season with regards to the latter (3.9) - he fits the Van Gaal mould.
Widely regarded as one of Serie A's finest goalkeepers, Liverpool's interest in Fiorentina shot-stopper Neto should come as little surprise given the circumstances. Simon Mignolet's lack of form could no longer be considered 'just a blip' towards the tail end of last year and losing his place to Brad Jones seemed to serve as the last nail in the coffin as far as the Belgian's number one status at Anfield was concerned.
In truth it seems Rodgers may have been on the lookout for a new keeper for some time and having passed up the opportunity to sign Victor Valdes, now at United, the need for reinforcements between the posts is becoming more apparent. Neto, at 25, is still very young for a keeper but has impressed since the start of the 2013/14 campaign, earning a highly respectable rating of 6.94 last season, and while that average has dropped to 6.74 this, only Juventus and Roma have conceded fewer goals than Fiorentina thus far (17).
The real positive for Liverpool as far as the Brazilian is concerned - though the players' attitude could perhaps be called into question - is that Neto is available at a cut price. The keeper has refused to extend his contract with the Viola, despite the fact that the club had stood by him when his ability had been doubted earlier in his career, meaning that he will be available on a free in the summer. With 'shot stopping', 'saving close range shots' and 'saving long shots' all strengths, the fact that he has no significant statistical weaknesses according to WhoScored's characteristics will perhaps be most encouraging to fans of the Reds.
Aston Villa are entrenched in a relegation battle once more after the weekend's defeat to bottom club Leicester and it's no less than they've deserved in all honesty. A tally of 10 points from their opening 4 games have all but carried them to this point, having amassed just 11 points over their next 17 league fixtures, scoring a miserly 11 goals all season long.
The fans are turning on Paul Lambert again and it's hard not to sympathise with them, though the Scot has made his first move in trying to remedy their woeful return in front of goal. Villa are expected to complete the signing of Carles Gil, who has spent two seasons on loan with Elche, with the 22-year-old a busy attacking threat who can play in a number of positions behind the striker. Gil is, however, deemed surplus to requirements at Valencia, starting just twice for Los Che all season, with many La Liga experts somewhat surprised that the club are so willing to let the promising youngster leave the club.
Most often used on the right wing in his time with Elche, where he played alongside Villa's summer signing Carlos Sanchez, Gil's figures when it comes to direct goal contribution hardly make for exciting reading for Villa fans, who have been starved of goals from their side, with just 2 goals and 3 assists in 41 La Liga appearances. Nevertheless the Spaniard isn't scared to run at players and offers something different to Lambert in that regard, completing 53 dribbles and 40 key passes last season, which would have been enough to rank second and third respectively for the Villans last season.