With the January transfer window fast approaching, the rumour mill is entering full swing. Teams will now have identified key positions that they need to improve following the first half of the season, as well as the players that they cannot afford to let go. As always though, some players may look to capitalise on media speculation about their future to force through a move to a bigger club.
One player that could fit this profile is Aston Villa’s Brazilian defensive midfielder Douglas Luiz. After being purchased by Manchester City for £10.8m back in July 2017, he was sent on loan to partner club Girona for two seasons due to initial problems obtaining a work permit. Despite showing glimpses of promise in Spain, it wasn’t until his move to Aston Villa at the beginning of the 2019/20 season that he entered the wider public’s consciousness. Luiz was almost ever-present in Villa’s first season back in the Premier League, making a total of 36 appearances as the Villians survived relegation on the final day thanks to an upturn in form following project restart. Over the course of the season, Luiz provided three goals and two assists for the Midland-based side.
Luiz also earned a call up to the senior Brazil squad in November last year, just five months after his debut for the U23 side, thanks to his impressive performances for Villa. To date, Luiz has five international caps for Brazil and is yet to taste defeat.
So, looking forward to the transfer window, which clubs could be interested parties in Luiz? Oddly enough, one of the clubs that are said to be looking closely at the Brazilian is his old club, Manchester City. When Luiz was sold to Villa for £15m, City insisted that a £25m buy-back clause be inserted into his contract, showing that the club was not prepared to cut all ties with the midfielder. One of the areas where Luiz may fit into Pep’s system is as a long-term replacement for City captain Fernandinho, who is in the final year of his contract. At the age of 35, Fernandinho’s compatriot Luiz is 13 years younger and so still has scope for further development.
This would not be the first time City have operated a player contract in this manner. In the case of Angeliño, he was purchased from Deportivo La Coruna as a 16-year-old and developed in City’s Academy. Following numerous loan spells across Europe and a spell in the USA, he was sold to PSV for just under £5m. However, City had included a buy-back clause for £10.8m, which was triggered after just one season. After just six months back in Manchester, the Spaniard was shipped back out on loan, this time to Leipzig, until the end of the 2020/21 season. Included in this agreement is an option for Leipzig to make this move permanent for a rumoured £16.2m, which the Germans are widely expected to activate. This will enable City to generate further profit from the player, despite him initially leaving the club in 2018. Therefore, whilst Luiz could feasibly fit into City’s midfield, the Citizens interest in bringing the Brazilian back up North may be solely for financial reasons.
Another party that has expressed an interest is Italian giants Juventus, who have lined up Luiz as a potential recruit for the future.
Juventus have been looking at Luiz as a potential replacement for two of the older players within their otherwise youthful midfield. Both Sami Khedira and Aaron Ramsey, 33 and 29 respectively, have found themselves on the fringe of Andrea Pirlo’s plans so far this season. Ramsey has struggled to adapt to Italian football and fitness issues have prevented him from holding down a first-team slot. Similarly, Khedira’s last two seasons in Turin have been plagued by injuries and with the German now in the final year of his contract, a move to the MLS is expected either in January or at the end of the season. Luiz could be an ideal replacement to reduce the age of the Old Lady’s midfield and current speculation suggests Juventus may be prepared to offer Villa a player and cash deal to acquire the Brazilian.
Another Italian giant, AC Milan, may also be interested in Luiz. With Ismael Bennacer’s stock level rising fast heading into the January transfer window, the Rossoneri may have to fend off interest from Europe’s leading clubs. While it is unlikely Milan would sanction the sale of Bennacer in the upcoming window, with him playing an integral role as Milan currently sit top of the Serie A, if he was to be sold in the future, Luiz may be an option for his replacement. Luiz is a similar age to Bennacer, who has only just turned 23, and a similar mould of player with both being roughly the same height and considered to be defensive-minded playmakers capable of carrying the ball through the thirds.
Despite City’s buy-back clause putting Douglas Luiz’s value at £25m, our calculators estimate his value to be £17.92m. However, with Villa performing well in the Premier League and further international appearances for Luiz expected, his value is likely to exceed £20m by the end of the season. With the midfielder still yet to enter his prime, he still has room for development and so the monetary risk involved in this purchase would be relatively slim. Whilst Villa fans will certainly want the club to keep hold of Luiz, as potential replacements currently at the club in the likes of Marvelous Nakamba are not favoured by the fans, decision making will be taken from the club’s hands if City activate their buy-back clause.
In conclusion, a return to Manchester City appears likely for Luiz, with a summer transfer more feasible than a January move. However, whether this is for sporting or financial purposes remains to be seen. Whilst Luiz could be the ideal replacement for the ageing Fernandinho, if interest in the player remains high from parties such as Milan and Juventus, City may look to turn a quick profit on the midfielder instead of allowing him to put on the sky blue of City in the Premier League.