Juventus midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur is reportedly Steven Gerrard’s next target to join the Aston Villa revolution.
The Villans have already made some impressive moves in the January transfer window with Philippe Coutinho arriving from Barcelona on loan, Lucas Digne joining for £25million from Everton and Robin Olsen coming in to provide competition in goal.
Their next priority appears to be a defensive midfielder and after a £25m bid for Yves Bissouma was rejected by Brighton, Uruguay international Bentancur is their reported No1 target.
What would the 24-year-old bring to the Premier League outfit? Read on as we take a closer look.
A position of need
Villa are blessed with some fine options in attack but their midfield still looks to be an area in need of improvement.
After a renaissance of sorts when Gerrard first arrived, a long-term injury to Marvelous Nakamba means Villa are currently without their only real tough-tackling midfielder.
Douglas Luiz has featured there but there is a consensus that the playmaking Brazilian needs a physical presence alongside him.
Gerrard’s reign began with a much-needed clean sheet against Brighton to end a five-game losing streak but they have stopped the opposition from scoring just twice in the 10 games since.
That makes the need for a holding player who complements the attacking abilities of the likes of John McGinn and Jacob Ramsey, as well as providing competition to Luiz, all the more pressing.
But while Gerrard has admitted the Midlands side are looking to strengthen, the former midfielder has admitted he will only move for a target if they can improve an already talented squad.
He said on his plans for the rest of the window: "There might be opportunities again. It is steel and style we are looking for. We want to make every position in the team as competitive as we can.
"If the right player and the right opportunity comes up to make the team stronger and better, we'll try and pounce like we have done previously."
Is Bentancur the answer?
It seems Gerrard thinks Bentancur can offer that improvement, with several reports indicating the Villans have made an approach for the Juventus man.
It would be heralded as another signing of ambition for the Midlands outfit as the Uruguayan has won three Serie A titles and featured regularly for Juve since joining from Boca Juniors five years ago.
He is also a fully-fledged international with 45 caps for Uruguay, who play Paraguay in a World Cup qualifier on Thursday.
At only 24, Bentancur has plenty of time to continue his development over the coming seasons.
He has played 19 times in the league for the Old Lady this season — including 90 minutes of their 0-0 draw with AC Milan on Sunday — but manager Max Allegri is thought to be willing to listen to offers.
A 6ft 2in tenacious midfielder with an impressive passing range, he would offer the domineering but composed presence Villa are looking for in the centre of the park.
But he also provides versatility, having played in a more advanced midfield role and even on both wings — his mobility on the ball allowing him to do so.
And he was a key factor in a resolute Juve performance on Sunday which saw title-chasing Milan struggle to penetrate Allegri’s men.
Featuring alongside Manuel Locatelli in midfield on Sunday, Bentancur made five tackles, four interceptions and completed 60 of 64 passes — leading his side in all three metrics.
A change of scene
Bentancur was regarded as one of South America’s finest talents when he joined five years ago but is not featuring as regularly this season.
With Locatelli, Adrien Rabiot and Weston McKennie among their midfield options, Bentancur could be a player Allegri moves on as he looks to rebalance his squad.
Clubs are often able to charge a premium during the mid-season window and Villa’s owners have already shown a willingness to spend, so it could be a good time to cash in.
And the Villans are now showing themselves to be an attractive proposition — Coutinho switching from Barcelona is proof of this.
The lure of playing under Gerrard — a Premier League great who Bentancur has openly admitted his admiration for — is another tick in the box for a move to Villa Park.
On his football idols, Bentancur said in 2019: "When I was little I was inspired by [Frank] Lampard and Gerrard, then in the role of regista I always liked [Sergio] Busquets, what a great player."
Europe appears unlikely for Villa this season and it remains to be seen whether Bentancur would give up the prospect of playing in the Champions League or Europa League for the next season and a half at least.
But many at the club have made it clear that European football is the aim and with Villa seventh in the form table since Gerrard took over in November thanks to an encouraging 1-0 away win at Everton on Saturday, it may not be too far off.
Facing Leeds, Newcastle and Watford in the next three games after the winter break is an ideal chance for the 11th-placed side to get themselves into the top half.
A quality addition of Bentancur’s calibre would do their hopes of achieving their ambitious goals no harm at all.