Aston Villa to ‘challenge’ Liverpool in race for midfield fix, Wolves hit with transfer dilemma

Latest transfer news as Aston Villa prepare a move for a Newcastle United target and Wolverhampton Wanderers are forced into a rushed transfer.

Unai Emery is reportedly keen to revisit La Liga in the transfer market this month, as Real Sociedad midfielder Mikel Merino - who is also wanted by Liverpool - is said to be on Aston Villa’s shortlist. The former Newcastle United man is in hot demand after becoming a key player for a Champions League-chasing Sociedad side.

The White and Blues are currently third in the league standings, just three points behind Real Madrid and six below Barcelona. With 11 wins in their opening 17 matches, Sociedad have managed to build a seven-point margin inside of the top four. Merino has played a key role in their success as he has missed just one game so far this term.

The Spain international has been linked with a move away from his home country, however. Mundo Deportivo is the latest publication to report Merino has a release clause of €65 million (£57 million), meaning he is up for grabs for any side willing to pay that figure. Mundo Deportivo claims Villa are so keen on Merino that they would be happy to cough up the cash.

Unai Emery is said to be a huge admirer of the 26-year-old, who has directly contributed to eight goals this campaign (1G, 7A). Liverpool are another side with reported interest, as it is claimed Jurgen Klopp wants reinforcements to help his side close the gap to the Champions League spots after a disappointing first half of the season.

Despite all the speculation, however, the player himself told DAZN earlier this month that he is committed to helping his current side to European success. “I’m very happy here,” Merino said to DAZN, via Diario AS. “I have an incredible history at La Real, I’m very happy with how my career is going here, and I want to focus on that,” Merino continued.

Mikel Merino (R) has established himself as one of the best central midfielders in Spain.
Mikel Merino (R) has established himself as one of the best central midfielders in Spain.
Mikel Merino (R) has established himself as one of the best central midfielders in Spain.

If the midfielder’s release clause is offered he can still be spoken to by other clubs, but it seems it would be a waste of time given what he has said only recently. It may make sense for Villa and Liverpool to focus on other targets instead – unless of course Emery and Klopp get their best convincing faces on.

Meanwhile, Wolves hit with ‘transfer dilemma’

In other West Midlands football news, Wolverhampton Wanderers have been dealt a crushing blow in their pursuit of Flamengo wonderkid Joao Gomes as another team, Lyon, are said to have swooped in at the final moment. It is claimed that the Brazilian’s current club is yet to agree to a sale as a ‘better offer’ has now been submitted by the Ligue 1 side.

It had previously been widely stated that Wolves were set to bring the midfielder to Molineux imminently with the transfer all but completed. But that may now have been scuppered, it seems, as Julen Lopetegui’s side have been hit with a dramatic late turn in events.

Reputable Brazilian journalist Venê Casagrande was the first to break the news and his latest report states a Lyon representative is in Rio de Janeiro to try and get the transfer over the line. Flamengo ‘prefer’ the Lyon offer, but the ‘steering wheel’ - the player himself - ‘maintains the decision to sign with Wolves’.

Wanderers now have quite the dilemma as they could theoretically match Lyon’s bid and get the player for themselves, though it remains a real possibility they could get Gomes for the original fee with the midfielder so keen on the Molineux option. This could drag on for a little while yet.

After making his debut for Flamengo in November 2020, aged 19, Gomes has played 119 times in all competitions. In that period he has played 42 matches as a central midfielder, 35 as a defensive anchor, five at left wing and two in a more advanced position. In that period, Gomes has scored four goals and contributed three assists.