Aston Villa manager Dean Smith responds to Tyrone Mings and Anwar El Ghazi headbutt

17 Sep

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith has played down the angry clash between Villans stars Tyrone Mings and Anwar El Ghazi during Monday night’s 0-0 draw with West Ham.

El Ghazi appeared to try and headbutt his team-mate after Mings berated the winger for not tracking back late in the first-half at Villa Park.

El Ghazi appeared to try to headbutt team-mate Mings in the first-half
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It was the main talking point of an eventful goalless draw, with the pair being separated by midfielder Marvelous Nakamba before referee Mike Dean stepped in, telling both players: ‘You’re on the same team!’

El Ghazi could have been sent off for his actions and the incident was checked by VAR, but the Villa forward escaped a red card.

Villa captain Jack Grealish insisted the duo’s grudge didn’t last long and it was ‘put to bed’ at half-time.

And Smith has confirmed both Mings and El Ghazi shook hands and put the incident behind them before they both played on for the second-half.

“I didn’t need to deal with it, the players dealt with it,” said Smith.

“It was dealt with by the players in the dressing room and I’m happy for that to happen, that’s the spirit in the dressing room.

Anwar El Ghazi and Tyrone Mings put their differences aside during half-time, says Dean Smith

“Things happen in team sport in the heat of the moment and it was sorted very quickly. At half-time they spoke about it, shook hands and we move on.”

Smith was more concerned that his team failed to make the most of Arthur Masuaku’s dismissal in the 67th minute, with West Ham the more threatening despite their numerical disadvantage.

“What is disappointing is that we played just over 20 minutes against 10 men and couldn’t take advantage of that,” he added.

“We lost our structure and made mistakes and at times lost emotional control during that last 20 minutes or so.”

Dean Smith was disappointed his side didn’t take advantage of West Ham’s numerical disadvantage

Masuaku, booked in the first half, received a second yellow card for a soft-looking foul on Villa substitute Ahmed Elmohamady.

But Villa failed to really worry West Ham after that, instead inviting pressure on themselves through individual errors and silly fouls inside their own final third.

West Ham put Villa under pressure late on, with the hosts often leaving themselves two against two at the back, and in the end it was Smith’s side who survived.

Premier League managers’ playing careers rated, including Frank Lampard and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

4 Sep

All 20 Premier League managers have done exceptionally well to get into the position they’re in.

They’re in charge of teams in, arguably, the best league in the world – but what were they like as players?

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola played for Barcelona at senior level for over ten years
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Some reached the very top of football, playing for huge clubs including Chelsea, Manchester United and Barcelona.

However, others didn’t have so much to put on their CV’s when they were trying to break into management.

Below you can see where each Premier League manager ranks based on their playing careers, according to

20. Roy Hodgson (Crystal Palace)

The veteran manager is best known for his days in the dugout and with good reason too.

Hodgson played for Palace at youth level but could never break into the first-team and then went on to play non-league football at a string of clubs for several years.

He began his training to become a coach in his early twenties so it’s no surprise Hodgson occupies bottom spot in this chart.

Hodgson never really made it as a player
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19. Brendan Rodgers (Leicester City)

He didn’t have much of a playing career at senior level but this was through no fault of Rodgers.

The Northern Irishman, who has managed Swansea and Liverpool in the Premier League before taking his current post at Leicester, had to retire as a professional at 20-years-old due to a genetic knee injury.

Like Hodgson, Rodgers studied coaching very young and has built up his name ever since.

18. Daniel Farke (Norwich City)

The German has taken Norwich back to the big time and their attractive playing style should see the Canaries get a lot of good results this season.

Farke, 42, has already achieved more as a manager than he ever did as a player
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However, Farke’s career as a player was not so good as he spent his short playing career in the lower levels of German football, representing SV Lippstadt, Bonner SC and SV Meppen.

17. Eddie Howe (Bournemouth)

Another one whose playing career was blighted by injury, Cherries boss Howe enjoyed limited success before turning to management.

He begun his career at Bournemouth and was signed by Harry Redknapp at Portsmouth in 2002 but sustained a knee injury shortly afterwards.

Pompey got promoted to the Premier League in 2003 but Howe was not part of that success and he eventually hung up his boots in 2007, aged 29.

It’s likely Howe would have had more success as a player were it not for his injuries
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16. Chris Wilder (Sheffield United)

Sheffield United manager Wilder is living the dream by managing the club he supports in the top flight and he was arguably living the dream at the start of his playing career too by playing for them.

But after six years at Bramall Lane, via four different loan spells, Wilder was offloaded to Rotherham United.

The former right-back played for eleven different clubs in his playing career but did not see any kind of success compared to what he’s experienced as a manager.

15. Dean Smith (Aston Villa)

Villans boss Smith played for five different clubs in the football league over a 16-year playing career but his success was limited.

Smith is now in charge of Villa, the team he grew up supporting
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Smith came close to achieving promotion to the third tier of English football with Leyton Orient but the O’s lost in the play-off final twice.

The closest he ever got to the Premier League as a player was when he was at Sheffield Wednesday, who were one league below for one season.

14. Sean Dyche (Burnley)

A promising start to former Nottingham Forest man Dyche’s playing career was put on hold by a broken leg and after that he had to settle with bouncing around clubs in the lower divisions.

Probably the most memorable moment of his playing career saw him reach the FA Cup semi-finals with Chesterfield in 1997 where they almost beat Premier League side Middlesbrough.

12. Sean Dyche (Burnley)
Dyche almost helped Chesterfield to surprise FA Cup glory

Dyche scored a penalty which put Chesterfield 2-0 up against Boro at Old Trafford but the game finished 3-3. Boro booked their place in the final by winning the replay 3-0.

13. Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)

By his own admission, Klopp was not a particularly talented footballer and probably would have moved into management sooner than he did if Mainz let him.

Klopp played for five different German clubs but his days at Mainz are what his playing days are best known for.

He played for them for eleven years but never played in the Bundesliga despite going close to promotion a couple of times. He became manager in February 2001 and the rest as they say is history.

Klopp has achieved plenty as a manager, however
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12. Marco Silva (Everton) 

The Toffees boss edges out Klopp as he managed to make a grand total of two appearances in Portugal’s top flight but Silva didn’t have much of a playing career.

These appearances came while on loan at S.C. Campomaiorense but Silva spent most of his playing days at second or third division clubs in Portugal.

11. Graham Potter (Brighton)

You could argue that Potter has somewhat come from nowhere in recent seasons, however, he has plenty of experience playing in England.

The Brighton boss played for twelve different clubs including a season-long spell at Southampton in the Premier League, which helped him earn his only international cap for England’s Under-21 side.

It remains to be seen whether Potter will be a success as Brighton boss
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10. Manuel Pellegrini (West Ham)

The Chilean was a one-club man throughout his 13-year playing career, representing Universidad de Chile.

Pellegrini started when the club were going through a lean patch of form but they won the league title in 1979. He hung up his boots in 1986 aged 32.

9. Unai Emery (Arsenal)

Although he made just five LaLiga appearances, Emery enjoyed a decent career playing in the second tier of Spanish football, making over 200 appearances over the space of seven seasons.

However, a knee injury brought the Arsenal manager’s playing career to a premature end in 2004/05 and he retired from the game aged 32.

Emery has managed some big sides in Europe including Valencia, Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain

8. Ralph Hasenhuttl (Southampton)

Saints boss Hasenhuttl spent most of his playing career in his homeland of Austria and enjoyed a good amount of success there.

He won the Austrian Bundesliga four times and Austrian Cup twice, before having a spell with German side FC Cologne which didn’t really work out.

7. Javi Gracia (Watford)

After breaking into LaLiga by helping UE Lleida achieve promotion in 1993, Gracia established himself as a top flight player.

He went down a division by signing for Villarreal in 1999 but was part of their side which got promoted before going back down four years later with Cordoba where he saw out the final year of his playing days.

Gracia is Watford’s longest ever serving manager in the Premier League, having been appointed in January 2018
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6. Mauricio Pochettino (Tottenham)

Die hard England fans will know Pochettino as the player who gave away a penalty during England’s victory over Argentina at the 2002 World Cup, even if Michael Owen did go down a bit too easily.

The Argentine played at a good level though, representing Espanyol for ten years over two spells and played for French giants Paris Saint-Germain for two years.

Pochettino’s most notable achievements as a player include two Copa del Rey titles.

He can also count Ronaldinho as a former teammate, while he shared a room with Diego Maradona on international duty with Argentina.

5. Nuno Espirito Santo (Wolves)

The Wolves boss won a bucket load of trophies in Portugal, particularly during his days at Porto.

Nuno won a surprising amount of trophies as a player

Nuno won the Primeira Liga five times, the UEFA Cup and a Champions League title under a certain Jose Mourinho.

However, it should be noted that Nuno was the second choice goalkeeper throughout his glory days at Porto.

4. Pep Guardiola (Manchester City)

All this man knows is success. Guardiola has won trophies as a player and a manager.

The Manchester City boss is best known as a player for Barcelona where he won LaLiga five times, the Copa del Rey twice and was also in the team which helped them win the European Cup in 1992 – the Blaugrana’s first title in Europe’s premier club competition.

He also had some success at international level, helping Spain to Olympic gold at the 1992 games in Barcelona.

3. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Manchester United)

If Solskjaer can have similar success as Manchester United manager as he did as a player then fans will be happy.

Solskjaer’s best moment as a player saw him score the winner in the 1999 Champions League final

The Norwegian won six Premier Leagues, two FA Cups and a Champions League title in 1999, scoring the winning goal in the dramatic 2-1 triumph over Bayern Munich.

Solskjaer was something of a fringe player at Old Trafford at times but that was only due to the huge talent the United squad had when he was there.

2. Steve Bruce (Newcastle United)

His managerial career has had plenty of setbacks but there’s no doubting Bruce enjoyed a great playing career.

Bruce is best known for his days at Manchester United where he won three Premier League titles, three FA Cups and a European Cup Winners’ Cup.

Amazingly though, he never made a senior appearance for England’s national team despite captaining the Red Devils.

Steve Bruce (left) helped United win their first league title in 27 years

1. Frank Lampard (Chelsea)

But at the top has to be new Chelsea boss Lampard, who is arguably the club’s greatest ever player.

Super Lamps, as he’s affectionately known, won everything on offer for club players including the Premier League, FA Cup, Europa League and Champions League.

He also finished second to Ronaldinho in the Ballon d’Or awards in 2005.

Lampard is Chelsea’s all-time leading goalscorer

Saturday is GameDay on talkSPORT and talkSPORT 2 as we become your go to destination for all the Premier League action.

We’ll bring you LIVE commentary of Premier League games across all three time slots on Saturday – 12.30pm, 3pm and 5.30pm – delivering award-winning coverage to more GameDay listeners than ever.

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith defends Jack Grealish and fumes at the officials after ‘perfectly good equaliser’ ruled out against Crystal Palace

31 Aug

Dean Smith criticised the officials for ruling out what he considered to be a ‘perfectly good’ last-gasp equaliser as 10-man Aston Villa were beaten at Crystal Palace.

After securing a rare victory at Manchester United last weekend, the Eagles had just about enough to win as Jordan Ayew’s second-half strike secured a 1-0 win against a Villa side who played with a man short for over half an hour following the dismissal of Trezeguet.

Dean Smith felt it necessary to defend Jack Grealish
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The visitors thought they had rescued a late point as substitute Henri Lansbury smashed home but referee Kevin Friend pulled play back and booked indignant Villa captain Jack Grealish for simulation.

It was unclear whether or not Friend had consulted the video assistant referee before blowing his whistle but the goal was chalked off and Villa were denied their equaliser.

Smith, who named the same starting line-up that beat Everton last week, felt the goal should have stood and defended Grealish against accusations of simulation.

“(It was a) good goal,” he said. “I think everyone else’s view was good goal.

Grealish was left flabbergasted by the decision
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The Villa players were left fuming after Kevin Friend booked Grealish
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“No one could understand why it wasn’t given. I spoke in the week about VAR and subjective decisions but that system is meant to right wrongs.

“I wondered what I’d be like when that system went against me. He got a nudge from (Wilfried) Zaha in the back. As he offloads it, (Gary) Cahill comes into the tackle as well. Simulation? No chance.

“Someone just put to me that his reputation may precede him. Well, he was the most fouled player in the Championship last season for a reason. He may be in this league as well. A perfectly good goal for me.

“I’ll probably get some waffle about the reasons, but it was a poor decision. I believe any goal that is scored goes to VAR. I don’t know whether it did or not.

“For me, I didn’t understand the officials’ decision-making today.

“If you’re Jack Grealish, I’d be raging. He’s having his integrity questioned. He’s made a great run, laid it off for Henri Lansbury to score.

“He’s had his integrity questioned not only by the officials here, but in Stockley Park as well. Jack wasn’t even looking for a foul.”

Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish sets unwanted Premier League record with 20th successive defeat

18 Aug

Jack Grealish has become the first player to lose 20 successive Premier League games.

The Aston Villa captain’s wretched run began when he made his senior debut as a substitute in a 4-0 thrashing to Manchester City in May 2014.

Jack Grealish will be hoping to lead Aston Villa to safety this season
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He then appeared more regularly during the following season as the Villains were relegated from the top-flight.

Grealish established himself as a regular starter in the Championship and led his boyhood club back to the Premier League last season.

But it has been a tough start to the 2019/20 campaign for Grealish and co with Dean Smith’s side suffering back-to-back losses to Tottenham and Bournemouth.

The 2-1 home defeat to the Cherries made it loss number 20 in a row for the midfielder.

Dean Smith would have been disappointed with the manner in which Aston Villa conceded against Burnley
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Villa were the architects of their own downfall as Tom Heaton gave away a needless penalty in the opening minute of the game before a Douglas Luiz mistake saw Harry Wilson score from range.

Grealish insists Villa will be ‘fine’ when they stop making mistakes.

He said: “It’s disappointing and – we’ve all said it (in the dressing room), the manager said it to us – we have to cut out the mistakes.

“I gave away the ball last week for Harry Kane’s goal (in the 3-1 loss at Tottenham) and then we’ve given away a penalty and a deflected goal (on Saturday).

“I thought we were the much better team after the first 15, 20 minutes. But that’s this league for you. When you make mistakes, you do get punished.

“As soon as we cut these mistakes out, I am sure we will be fine.”

Dean Smith believes ‘powerful’ Jack Grealish has women weak at the knees as Aston Villa prepare for Bournemouth showdown

17 Aug

Aston Villa boss Dean Smith believes his ‘powerful’ captain Jack Grealish has women weak at the knees.

The 23-year-old has become a firm favourite with the Villa Park faithful, building up a reputation as bit of a Jack-the-Lad character with his playing style and rockstar look.

Smith believes Grealish leaves women weak at the knees
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But Smith believes the playmaker is now a true leader in the side’s ranks and couldn’t be more worthy of the captain’s armband.

Ahead of his side’s first Premier League match at Villa Park for three years, Smith said: “I felt Jack looked like a Premier League player last year playing in the Championship and I think he showed that against Tottenham last week.

“You just have to look at his legs now – and I’m sure there are probably a lot of girls out there who are looking at them! But as his head coach I see a real athlete now.

“He has got power in calves, he has got power in his gluts and he has got power in his thighs. With that, comes power and I think he has got quicker as a player and he looks at home in the Premier League now.”

Grealish boasts the unwanted record of having lost his last 19 matches in the top flight – and Smith has reaffirmed his belief that the Birmingham-born midfielder can prove his doubters wrong and reach the very top of football.

A boyhood Villa fan, Grealish will need to continue his fantastic form in the Premier League
Getty Images

“The persona that’s around Jack, I really don’t pay much attention to,” he continued.

“It’s what he does when he comes into this training ground and when leaves this training ground that really matters to me. I know for a fact just how professional and how driven this lad is now.

“I saw it for myself on Tuesday when I came to watch the Villa ladies training at 8pm and he was still in the gym.“It just shows his dedication. We’d trained at Villa Park in the morning and were finished for the day.

“But Jack went home, had a sleep and then felt he needed to come in and do his usual gym session which he always does at the training ground.

“So he was back here at our Bodymoor Heath base at 8pm on a Tuesday evening, which shows me how he has matured and how driven he is to become a top performer this season.

“I know how driven he is to succeed in the Premier League. On Saturday he intercepted so many balls against Spurs.

“We normally talk about Jack offensively or in the opposition’s third, but he knew he had to do a job for his teammates with the amount of possession Tottenham had and he worked so hard getting back.

“He was as gutted as anybody that he got robbed for their second goal. But it didn’t stop him getting on ball again. There were a number of times when he won it and carried the ball out of our penalty box- unfortunately the one time he got caught, we got punished and they scored.

“But he is an excellent player. He will learn and he can’t wait to be back in the Premier League at Villa Park for the first time in three years.”

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith insists the best team won after Tottenham Hotspur comeback as he allays fears about new arrivals

10 Aug

Dean Smith hailed Tottenham Hotspur after watching last season’s Champions League finalists come from behind to beat his Aston Villa side 3-1.

Harry Kane finally broke his duck at Tottenham’s new stadium as his late double secured all three points for the hosts in a game where they looked frustrated for large parts.

Dean Smith believes the better team won on Saturday afternoon
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Kane had gone three games without troubling the scorers at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium but he put that right with two goals in four minutes to seal the three points in what was a curious early evening in north London.

Spurs looked like starting the new Premier League campaign with a defeat after John McGinn’s early opener gave Villa a dream start to life back in the big time.

Tanguy Ndombele showed just why Tottenham broke their transfer record to bring him to the club with a fine leveller 17 minutes from time before Kane stole the headlines with two clinical finishes that masked a match which provided more questions than answers.

But for Smith, the level of performance cannot be questioned against a side he feels are almost indomitable.

Harry Kane scored twice in Tottenham‘s win
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He told talkSPORT: “There’s obviously a lot of disappointment having taken the lead and holding out for so long, but the better team – the far superior team won.

“But there is also a little bit of fortune on the goals. I think the first one deflected off Tyrone Mings, the second one was a bit of a ricochet from Tyrone and Bjorn Engels and then we got caught on the counter.

“We were trying to chase the game at the end, but we took it to the last six minutes which we can take something from.

“And certainly I don’t think we will be playing the quality of Tottenham all season.”

John McGinn gave the Villans the lead at the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium
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Much was made of Villa’s dealings in the transfer market, bringing in 12 players following their victory in the Championship Play-Off final over Derby County.

Given Fulham tried this business strategy last season and it ended in their relegation from the Premier League, sceptics have been quick to warn Smith.

But the former Brentford boss is adamant he is happy with the new arrivals at his squad.

“A lot has been made of the 12 signings that we have made,” Smith added. “But a number of them I have worked with before.

“Three of the back four today played of the last 15 games of the season where we only conceded 11 goals.

“The three midfielders played at Wembley as well, so we have made an awful lot of signings but a lot have been with us already.

“The integration has been pretty seamless to be honest.”

Aston Villa transfer news: How the Villans could look next season with record-signing Wesley Moraes, Jack Butland and Leeds star Kalvin Phillips

1 Jul

Aston Villa’s promotion to the Premier League was met with jubilant celebrations and sighs of relief from large sections of the West Midlands.

Dean Smith’s side beat Derby County 2-1 at Wembley to end a three-year exile from the top flight, but the boyhood Villa fan instantly set about building a squad capable of staying up as soon as the champagne had dried off his suit.

Aston Villa are back in the Premier League and looking to stay there

Villa have already signed Jota from rivals Birmingham City, while Anwar El Ghazi and Kourtney Hause have made their loan moves permanent.

Club-record signing Wesley Moraes is expected to be confirmed on July 1 once work permit issues have been ratified, with the 17-goal striker making his £22million move from Club Brugge official.

Smith is still working hard to bring Tyrone Mings back to the club, with the Daily Express claiming the Villans want to add six more signings to their squad.

Jack Butland of Stoke is an option in goal, with Ethan Ampadu, Leeds star Kalvin Phillips and Brentford winger Said Benrahma also under consideration.

Jack Butland currently plays for Stoke City in the Championship

With John McGinn and Jack Grealish set to stay after superb seasons in the Championship, Villa could quite easily have a squad capable of challenging for a top half finish in the Premier League.

So how could Smith’s starting XI for next season look? Check it out below.

Last season, Smith alternated between a 4-3-3 formation and a 4-4-1-1, depending on who the opposition was. If, for instance, they were playing a more defensive team at home, Smith would drop Grealish back into midfield alongside McGinn and Glenn Whelan.

This would allow Villa to attack from deep and get their playmakers on the ball to create chances for former loanee Tammy Abraham up front and then supply into the wide areas where the full backs were given license to roam past their inverted wingers.

Kalvin Phillips starred for Leeds in the 2018/19 campaign, with Aston Villa now primed to move for the midfielder
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While Whelan and Neil Taylor performed dutifully last year, the introduction of Phillips into midfield and Matt Targett from Southampton at left-back adds greater mobility to the side.

If, however, they play sides who expect to dominate the ball and will try to pass Villa to death, Smith can implement a 4-4-1-1 formation to solidify his team, with Grealish playing in a more advanced role to feed off scraps from the lone striker.

Dean Smith has a multitude of options ahead of the new season if he gets the signings he wants

Aston Villa assistant John Terry ends speculation about his future by signing contract extension until 2021

19 Jun

John Terry has signed a new contract extension with Aston Villa which keep him at the club until 2021.

The former England captain played a pivotal role alongside Dean Smith in helping Villa return to the Premier League via the Championship Play-Off final.

John Terry will be staying on as Aston Villa assistant manager

Terry made the transition from player to manager seamlessly and was linked to Derby County as a potential replacement for Frank Lampard.

According to the Daily Mail, Terry was among the leading candidates to take over at Pride Park if his old friend leaves to succeed Maurizio Sarri at Stamford Bridge.

But the former centre-half has ended speculation about his future by signing a new deal with the Villans.

CEO Christian Purslow told the club’s website: “The Board of Aston Villa is delighted with John Terry’s contribution to our club in his first year as an Assistant Head Coach. We admire his dedication and commitment to gaining more experience and learning under Dean Smith’s leadership in these formative years of his managerial career.”

Reports suggested Terry was in line to replace old pal Lampard if he took over at Chelsea

Head Coach Dean Smith added: “I am really pleased that JT has extended his current deal as he is a pleasure to work with. We have had a successful start to our Villa coaching careers and JT has been instrumental in joining myself, Richard O’Kelly and Neil Cutler.

“He has complimented the team that we have and I have no doubts he will go on to be a top manager in the years to come. Our focus now is on the coming season and to try to continue the progress we have had in the past eight months.”

Aston Villa sign Wembley hero Anwar El Ghazi from Lille on permanent basis

10 Jun

Aston Villa have completed the permanent signing of Anwar El Ghazi from Lille.

The Netherlands winger, 24, has agreed a four-year contract after spending last season on loan with Dean Smith’s side.

Anwar El Ghazi was Villa’s Wembley hero last month

El Ghazi starred in Villa’s Championship play-off final win over Derby last month, scoring the opening goal in a 2-1 victory which ended their three-year exile from the Premier League.

Villans boss Smith told the club’s website: “Anwar proved to everybody at Wembley how good a player he can be for Aston Villa.


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“He’s ready for the step up to the Premier League and he’s a young player who has an awful lot of potential.

“It’s now my job and the job of the coaching staff and Anwar himself to fulfil the potential that he undoubtedly has.

“He’ll be a great addition to the squad for next season.”

El Ghazi is Villa’s second arrival of the summer after the club signed Jota from arch rivals Birmingham last week.

Villa are also hoping to re-sign loan stars Kortney Hause and Tyrone Mings from Wolves and Bournemouth respectively after their loan spells at Villa Park during 2018/19.

Hause appears to be surplus to requirements at Molineux, while the Cherries’ £12million signing of highly-rated Wales defender Chris Mepham in January pushed Mings further down the pecking order.

Aston Villa transfer news: Jota signs for undisclosed fee as Gary Gardner heads to rivals Birmingham City

5 Jun

Aston Villa have signed Jota from bitter rivals Birmingham City for an undisclosed fee.

The 27-year-old Spanish attacker has signed a two-year contract with the Premier League new boys. He is reunited at Villa Park with Dean Smith, who was also his manager at Brentford.

The Spaniard played under Dean Smith at Brentford
aston villa

Meanwhile, Villa midfielder Gary Gardner has completed a permanent transfer in the opposite direction for an undisclosed fee.

Gardner, 26, spent last season on loan at Blues but he has now signed a three-year contract at St Andrew’s.

“I worked with Jota at Brentford. He’s a superb, talented player and Birmingham signed him as their record transfer,” Villa boss Smith told the club’s official website.

“I’m really happy to have him back working with us. He’s got great ability, great balance and a great eye for both goals and assists.”

Jota joined Brentford from Celta Vigo in 2014 and moved to Birmingham three years later. He made 32 appearances during his first season at Blues, scoring five goals.

Last season he played 40 times in the Championship – seven occasions as a substitute – and found the back of the net three times.

Gardner, who came through the academy at Villa and made his debut in December 2011, played many times with Jota last season for Blues, having started 39 Championship matches for Garry Monk’s side.