Everton left-back Lucas Digne is reportedly set to snub a number of clubs in the Premier League and continue carrying out Steven Gerrard’s prophecy that Aston Villa fans should be excited over the players identified to join his squad.
In the hours before the window opened the Villa boss said: “We’ve identified where we need some support and help and the targets that we are trying to bring in.
“If we manage to execute those targets in this window, I think the fans can be excited.”
How many of those alleged targets will arrive at Villa Park by the end of the window is open to question - but maybe the question should be how many of those players identified would consider a switch to Villa if Gerrard was not at the club?
“The Liverpool legend is yet to complete his first incoming transfer since his appointment in November - although a loan move for former Anfield team-mate Philippe Coutinho is set to be finalised over the coming days.”
What did Gerrard say ahead of the signing?
Speaking on Thursday, less than 24 hours before the agreement of the deal was confirmed, Gerrard said: “I do appreciate that his name is out there and that he’s linked to Aston Villa, but there are also five other clubs in the Premier League and others across Europe who are linked with him.
“I can understand that because you’re talking about a world-class individual and player.
“To share a pitch with Coutinho was a great experience because he was on a level that few footballers are on.
“His imagination, his creation, and also some of the highlight reels are incredible.”
The feeling was clearly always mutual.
What has Coutinho said about Gerrard?
Coutinho discussed his admiration for Gerrard with Sky Sports in 2017, saying: “One of the best I played with, I learnt a lot from him, and also, when I arrived here, it was like a dream to play with him.
“A guy I used to watch in Brazil, when I was playing PlayStation, and played together with him.“
“Of course, he was an idol for me and for everyone who watched him play.“
“But when we were together, you can see him in training, it’s different.
“He’s better, even better!“He’s great in everything, passing, shooting, defending, a lot of goals.
”Although still a Liverpool player at the time of the interview, the Brazilian playmaker still holds his former Anfield team-mate in high regard and has allegedly rejected advances from several clubs - and the lure of more money - to reunite with Gerrard.
What is Gerrard’s greatest strength?
The Villa boss clearly still retains the admiration of current players, who would have grown up watching his heroics on the right half of Merseyside and at international level with England.
For all of his undoubted ability in and out of possession of the ball, Gerrard’s leadership was perhaps his greatest strength and he has taken that into life in the dugout.
Highly-rated during his time as an academy coach with Liverpool, a number of Gerrard’s former squad have gone on to progress into the senior environment at Anfield and beyond.
Not all of them have established themselves in Jurgen Klopp’s squad like Curtis Jones, but several have made their way in their careers in the Football League.
What have other players said about Gerrard?
Defender Conor Masterson, now with Championship club QPR, spoke to The Times of life under Gerrard as recently as November.
He explained: “There was a meeting in a room at the academy and we were all there. “He stepped up and showed us this video of Liverpool playing Real Madrid in the Champions League.
“His point was Real Madrid had all these star names, but he explained how through hard work, communication and also the backing of Anfield, the team had gone out and shown everyone what it could do. Liverpool won 4-0.“
He said, ‘We got in their faces, never gave them any space.’ It was really powerful. It made you want to go out on the pitch and die for him.”
Former Spurs, Portsmouth and West Ham United striker Jermain Defoe was also impressed with Gerrard the manager after reuniting with his former England team-mate at Glasgow Rangers.
“In terms of management he’s still fresh and he’s new but you can see that naturally, he’s got everything. He always says to the players, ‘if you want to come speak to me about anything then my door is open,” he told TalkSport.
“He’s approachable, which is really important as a manager. Sometimes there’s stuff you want to talk about and you might have personal problems and you might have stuff you want to talk about but feel uncomfortable going to the manager.
“But with Steven, you can talk to him about anything. He reminds me a little bit of Harry Redknapp and Sam Allardyce where you can just approach them and speak about anything.”
What does the future at Villa look like?
A first trophy as a manager was secured last season when Rangers won the Scottish Premier League and prevented Glasgow rivals Celtic from claiming a tenth consecutive title.
The early results at Villa have been mixed. Ahead of Monday’s FA Cup third round tie at Manchester United, Gerrard has overseen four wins and four defeats in his eight games in charge.
A new challenge lies ahead this month as he looks to put his own stamp on a Villa squad containing players acquired by former bosses Steve Bruce and Dean Smith.
Unlike his successors, and without trying to diminish their achievements in the game, Gerrard may be able to attract a different class of player that can take Villa up another level in the Premier League.
The imminent signing of Coutinho and possible addition of Digne show that may well be the case.A message from the editor:
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