Aston Villa’s sale of Aaron Ramsey is their first ‘elite mentality’ decision

Jacob’s younger brother, Aaron Ramsey, is heading to Burnley in a reported £14,000,000 deal – but Aston Villa hold all the power in the deal.

Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy

For far too long, Aston Villa has been a big club, afraid to make big club decisions.

It is only now, at the beginning of the fifth season since returning to the Premier League and once the club has returned to European competition, that decisions seem to be turning away from ‘middling’ and towards ‘elite’.

Much of this change in mentality can likely be attributed to the more hands-on approach of owner Nassef Sawiris, the arrival of truly elite manager Unai Emery, and the subsequent arrival of President of Football Operations – Monchi – this summer.

The past two, possibly three, transfer windows have allowed the club to recruit elite players like Diego Carlos, Pau TorresMoussa Diaby and Youri Tielemans – but that isn’t a sign of an elite mentality, that is striving to achieve one.

One of Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens’ goals during their ownership continues to be surrounding the club having a thriving, elite-level academy. Huge amounts of investment have gone into signing some of the most highly-sought after talent in the country and Europe, such as the likes of Ben Chrisene, Lamare Bogarde, Sil Swinkels and more recently Rory Wilson and Kerr Smith from leading Scottish clubs – and at the time of writing all of these players still remain in the academy system.

Elite clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City have been able to operate their academies, albeit at times via bended rules, in some of the most impressive ways in the Premier League in recent seasons – utilising loans when possible to get a player up to Premier League level before realising the player is unlikely to break into the squad, and selling them to a club with a buy-back clause.

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Tammy Abraham, Romeo Lavia, Douglas Luiz, Carlos Borges, James Trafford, Gavin Bazunu and Tino Livramento are just a number of players who have been sold by both clubs in recent years with buy-back clauses included in their contract.

Despite the Aston Villa academy making £120,000,000 pure profit in the past two summer windows with the sales of Jack Grealish to Manchester City and Carney Chukwuemeka to Chelsea, the impending transfer this summer of Aaron Ramsey to Burnley for a reported £14,000,000 could be the most important academy sale in recent years.

Ramsey, younger brother to homegrown starlet Jacob Ramsey, has been on the periphery of the first-team squad since Dean Smith was manager and showcased exactly the talent he has on loan at Michael Carrick’s Middlesborough side last season in the Sky Bet Championship. However, Aston Villa’s arrival into European competition this season has meant the quality of the squad has improved and left little space for 20-year-old Aaron to make a mark like Jacob has. The midfielder likely wants regular first-team football, and Unai Emery cannot afford it him.

The impending sale to Premier League returnees Burnley is a key part of Aston Villa’s evolution into ‘elite mentality’ thinking – joining the likes of the league leaders by using their level as leverage in transfer dealings with other clubs and giving themselves the security of a buy-back clause. It is reported that a clause will be agreed with Burnley, likely to be double what they have paid for the midfielder.

This gives Aston Villa the opportunity to repurchase Ramsey, meaning they still believe the player to be a promising talent with the ability to excel. If the player performs well and demonstrates his talent, then he’s not lost to the Premier League wasteland and – as long as contractual terms between the selling and buying club are met – will not mean the club will be held to ransom like Manchester United were when re-purchasing Paul Pogba.

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It also provides the benefits of further pure profit out of the academy – and at a eight-figure sum. This will help with Financial Fair Play and potentially provide Aston Villa with further room to spend in this window, or future windows, should Emery and Monchi and the wider recruitment set-up see fit.

While it’s not a concrete certainty that Ramsey would return if the Villans came calling – as the youngster would need to agree contractual terms and could, if his performances had been strong enough, be attracting wider attention – it gives the player the opportunity he requires and the club at least some sort of “told you so” security. It’s a shame that the ‘Ramsey dynasty‘ is being broken up – but there’s always potential down the line.

With Cameron Archer also attracting a lot of interest this summer, buy-back clauses could be a regular part of Aston Villa’s selling manifesto moving forward – and especially so if Unai Emery’s side continue to rumble alongside the so-called ‘Big Six’.

The club’s mentality is shifting to elite-level thinking as the club continue to progress – and perhaps players will be afforded the opportunity to prove themselves on a semi-permanent basis away from B6 for the foreseeable future.