Had things worked out differently last summer, Arnaut Danjuma could already be a Premier League player going into the 2022/23 season.
In August 2021, Villarreal were thought to be battling it out with Dean Smith’s Aston Villa side for the signature of the then 24-year-old want-away forward at Bournemouth.
But while Smith was eventually sacked and replaced by Steven Gerrard with Aston Villa slumping to a below-par 14th placed finish this season, Danjuma reached the Champions League semi-finals with Villarreal, having put in several impressive performances along the way.
The Yellow Submarines purchased the Netherlands international for £21.3m last summer, having just come off the back of an excellent season with Bournemouth, having scored 17 goals and provided eight assists in 37 Championship games for the Cherries.
That season piqued Villa’s interest but the forward chose La Liga over the Premier League, with Bournemouth also potentially being a little reluctant to sell their star man to a team who could quite easily become a Premier League rival the following season (the Cherries did indeed end up winning promotion from the Championship.)
Danjuma was valued at £13.5m by Transfermarkt at the time of his transfer, and whilst Villa were disappointed to lose out on the Bournemouth man, nobody could have quite predicted what was to happen in the coming 12 months.
In the end, Villa were happy enough with the £25m acquisition of Leon Bailey from Bayer Leverkusen and cooled their interest as Danjuma headed to Villarreal.
However, 16 goals and four assists followed for Danjuma across all competitions this campaign, with his transfer value now rocketing up to £45m according to Transfermarkt with both Liverpool, and Manchester United interested in bringing the 25-year-old forward back to English football this summer.
The Villarreal star’s form this season has impressed former European Golden Boot winner Kevin Phillips.
“He is a player who can hurt any defence on his day,” he told Football Insider.
“He’s shown that countless times.
“Players like him are a rarity in this day and age.”
For Aston Villa, there will be an annoyance amongst their fanbase that Danjuma has shone and has now potentially priced himself out of a move to Villa Park, whilst Bailey has underwhelmed since his arrival in the Premier League, scoring just one goal and providing two assists in the league this season, according to FBref.
The permanent signing of former Liverpool and Barcelona man Philippe Coutinho may yet prove to be a fantastic addition for Gerrard’s side, but there will no doubt be a lot of frustration amongst the Villa Park faithful that they missed out on the services of Danjuma.