UNAI EMERY remains keen on signing Portugal striker Joao Felix as he seeks a ‘statement’ signing to prove Aston Villa are ready to step up a level.
How Aston Villa could line-up if they sign Joao Felix and Samuel Chukwueze
The Spanish boss will use the friendly to take a form check on Samuel Chukwueze, Arnaut Danjuma and Nicolas Jackson, who he knows well from his time in charge of the La Liga club.
Emery has been promised a healthy budget by billionaire owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens to bolster his squad in the January window.
He remains hopeful of landing Felix who is edging closer to making a decision on his uncertain future, now Portugal’s World Cup campaign is over.
Atletico are keen to cut their losses on their record signing and the Spaniards’ chief executive Miguel Angel Gil could even be open to a loan deal in January, with an option to buy clause.
Gil told Spanish broadcasters TVE: “I would love him to continue, but that is not the player’s idea.”
Felix’s agent Jorge Mendes has close links with Villa co-owner Sawiris after the Portuguese super-agent helped broker Emery’s recent move to Villa Park.
Mendes is pushing Villa as a realistic option for the 23-year-old hitman, who cost Atletico an eye-watering £113million when they signed him from Benfica in 2019.
However Emery is aware of Felix’s desire to play Champions’ League football on an annual basis and is drawing up contingency plans in case the Portuguese striker snubs his advances.
He has a trio of his former Villarreal players in his sights ahead of Thursday’s reunion with his old club.
Topping the list is Chukwueze who could solve Villa’s problem right wing position.
The 23-year-old Nigerian international enjoyed stellar success under Emery, and was involved in 30 goals in all competitions since Emery arrived at Villarreal in 2020.
He was a major factor in the Spaniard’s successful run to the semi-finals of the Champions’ League and would cost Villa around £40million.
If Villa ending up sealing ambitious deals for Felix and the Villarreal star, they could boast an incredibly fearsome attack of Felix, Chukwueze and Ings.
A cheaper option would be 21-year-old Nicolas Jackson, the young Senegal international who Emery promoted from Villarreal B to his first team.
Jackson has a £26million buy-out clause but that could turn out to be a bargain if the kid winger fulfils his huge potential.
Meanwhile, former Bournemouth winger Arnaut Danjuma is another Emery old boy who would jump at the chance to be reunited with his old boss.
His form has dipped since Emery joined Villa, causing him to miss out on the Netherlands world cup squad and the £30million-rated forward would be open to kick-starting his career under his ex-boss in England.
Felix is unsettled at Atletico Madrid after falling out with Diego SimeoneGetty