Our writers have joined forces again, on an article surrounding rather ‘unknown’ entities to the world of football that could succeed at Aston Villa.
Words: Under A Gaslit Lamp Writers | @VillaLamp
Every once in a while, we task our writers in joining forces on articles where a wide range of opinions can all be seen within one place. This summer, we’re going to pick out a number of transfer-related subjects for our writers, and they’ll come back to us with their thoughts, reasoning and more.
This time around, we’ve asked our writers to come up with a single player that is somewhat of an ‘unknown entity’, meaning you’ll likely have never heard of them – and if you have, they’re a player outside of Europe’s top five leagues.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Evander, 22, FC Midtjylland, (Market value: £6,300,000)
Regan Foy, Founder and Editor-in-Chief (@findfoy)
Evander was not my first choice for this round-table. In fact, it was Shon Weismann, who I’ve waxed lyrical about since before the club signed Mbwana Samatta on our podcast, Gather ‘Round The Lamp. He’s moved to the La Liga this summer, so it makes no sense to pick him.
Evander, full name Evander da Silva Ferreira is a Brazilian midfielder who moved to the Danish league with FC Midtjylland last summer for a fee of around £2,250,000. He is a name that Johan Lange should be aware of already due to his time as Sporting Director at FC Kobenhavn.
At 22-years-old, Evander’s stock just keeps on rising, and he managed 13 goals and 10 assists in 40 appearances for Midtjylland in the Superligaen, whilst managing four goals and three assists in 16 appearances in the Superligaen Championship round. Not only that, but the midfielder has also managed a goal and assist within the Europa League qualifying stages too.
What makes this special is that Evander is deployed most often as a central midfielder. He can play as a central attacking mid and a right winger too. He’s versatile, and certainly knows where the net is.
He’s a player that would compliment the squad well, provide ample competition for the likes of Conor Hourihane, and would mix in well with his compatriots Wesley and Douglas Luiz.
At likely under £10,000,000 – Evander is a steal.
Ezequiel Barco, 21, Atlanta United (Market value: £9,450,000)
Mark Jirobe, Co-Founder & Senior Contributor (@VillaMarkPGH)
The MLS has been known to produce a few chuckles or two when compared to top-tier leagues around the world, but there are some hidden gems within the North American league. Ezequiel Barco, the 21-year-old Argentine attacking midfielder is definitely the type of player who may be drawing attention from scouts from far and wide.
The Villa Gobernador Gálvez native joined Atlanta United in 2018 from Club Atlético Independiente, reportedly for the sum of $15,000,000; a pretty considerable fee in terms of what MLS sides generally spend in a transfer market. Barco has been a pretty good player for Atlanta ever since his arrival, a genuinely creative midfielder with loads of potential.
Barco is very highly rated by Atlanta United, more specifically the president of the southern United States club, Darren Eales. Eales very recently dismissed any rumours that Barco could be on the move, but his comments may be more of a signal that Atlanta are waiting for the right offer for Barco, just not at the moment:
“He just got a knock before the game, the rumors are just people pontificating on Twitter who don’t have a clue. The reality is he’s got a knock, unfortunately, he couldn’t play on Saturday. He’s day to day, hopefully he’s back sooner rather than later. We want him back obviously. In a salary-cap league we need our designated players out on the pitch. We’ve lost Josef (Martinez) for the season, so the sooner we can get Barco back the better, because he obviously makes us an even better team.”
Not just a pure number ten on the pitch, Barco can also play on the left-wing and did so for Atlanta on occasion, sometimes swapping positions mid-game. The versatility of such a young & creative player ticks more than a few boxes for mid to lower table Premier League sides if the opportunity should arise.
Barco should definitely be one to look out for in the future, even though he might be somewhat of an unknown to football fans outside of the United States. At 21 years old, he will continue to develop in a league that prides themselves on not only developing players as footballers but also as people. In the abridged 2019-2020 MLS Season, Barco scored four goals and chipped in with two assists, an 85.3% passing accuracy and won 167 offensive duels.
Vedat Muriqi, 26, Fenerbahce (Market value: £10,800,000)
Harry Trend, Senior Contributor (@HazaTrand)
You might recognise the name Vedat Muriqi from when England played Kosovo last September. The big forward grabbing one goal and two assists that night despite the Three Lions ultimately prevailing 5-3.
But for others, Muriqi has been on the radar for a while now. Born in Yugoslavia, there’s a distinctly Eastern European flavour to the Fenerbache strikers’ career. Muriqi started at Liria in his native land, then went to Teuta Durren in Albania before moving to Giresunspor in Turkey, the country he plays his football in now.
Muriqi had a spell with Gençlerbirliği S.K. before really finding his goalscoring form at Rizespor. The Kosovo international managed a goal every other game at the Rize-based club, and he was rewarded with a move to Turkish Giants Fenerbache last season.
What type of player are you getting with Vedat Muriqi? On the surface it’s obvious; standing at 6-foot-four with a muscular build, the man possesses the qualities to lead the line on his own as a target man. His heat graphs show that he likes to keep in the centre of the pitch, so don’t expect him to run the channels in the way Mbwana Samatta does.
In his early years Muriqi wasn’t prolific, but you can see he’s worked on his in-box movement over the last couple of years, enabling his climb up the Turkish football pyramid. Last season the big man got 17 goals in 36 games in the Turkish Super League for Fenerbahçe.
Former team-mate Max Kruse compared Muriqi to Robert Lewandowski last year, exclaiming, “I think he will be at Bayern’s level in two-three seasons.”
While the comparison might be slightly fanciful, Muriqi is similar to Lewandowski in the sense that while he scores in abundance, few of his finishes are highlight reel worthy (his long range left-footer at home to Konyaspor last October being the exception to the rule).
Also, Muriqi is a trusted penalty taker for the Yellow Canaries. Again, this isn’t the most exciting trait, but it feels like Villa have been lacking a player who can hit the target from twelve yards for a while now.
Currently, Muriqi is linked with Lazio, Spurs and West Brom, with Italy being the most likely destination. Nevertheless, with the Kosovan valued at around £18 million and Fenerbache in a poor financial state, he could be one to take a punt at.
Frederik André Björkan, 22, Bodø/Glimt (Market value: £810,000)
Matt Blogg, Senior Contributor (@Blogg_Matt)
Fredrik Andre Bjorkan is probably not someone that many people are familiar with in England, but the young Norwegian is making a name for himself in his home country, performing consistently for high-flying FK Bodo/Glimt.
After finishing second last season, Bodo/Glimt are currently leading the Eliteserien at the halfway stage having won 13 of their 15 matches (losing 0), and already boast a 7-point lead over second place Molde. They have also won their only Europa League Qualifying game so far, beating Lithuanian side Kauno Zalgris 6-1. Bjorkan has played every game of their so far successful season, registering 3 assists to continue his fine contribution record after having a hand in 8 goals last season.
Aged just 22, Bjorkan has already made 72 appearances for the club he joined as a hopeful academy prospect, and may well be looking for a move before too long with his contract expiring in December 2021. A Norway under-21 international, Bjorkan has averaged a goal or assist every 4 games over the last season and a half for Bodo/Glimt, underlining his attacking intent which would suit Villa so nicely.
Widely unknown and largely unproven, the left back would not dent Villa’s bank account in transfer fee or wages and would offer an exciting alternative to the current options. No young player from such an undervalued league is going to turn down the chance to sign for a Premier League club, so any problems in that respect would likely be avoided, and as someone who is apparently catching the eye of teams such as Galatasary, it certainly appears as though Bjorkan could be one to keep an eye on.
Norway’s Eliteserien has produced a number of talented youngsters over the years, such as Erling Braut Haaland and Martin Odegaard, as well as some solid Premier League players like John Obi Mikel (who is still the only player to leave the Eliteserien for a fee of more than £10 million), Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Morten Gamst Pedersen, Mame Biram Diouf, Paul Scharner and even Villa favourite John Carew. This goes to show that players starting their journeys in Norway can go on to have successful careers, and I see no reason why Bjorkan couldn’t be added to that list in the next few years.
There is no inkling of interest from Villa in Bjorkan at the moment, but Dean Smith could do much worse than to take a punt on this young unknown entity. Remember the name, Fredrik Andre Bjorkan.
Mohammed Daramy, 18, FC Kobenhavn, (Market value: £5,400,000)
Andrew Maddox, Contributor (@MaddoxJourno)
With Villa looking for another option on the wings to support Anwar El Ghazi and Trezeguet, Johan Lange may be tempted to raid his former club for a young gem.
Mohammed Daramy is only 18, turning 19 in January, and is attracting many admirers across Europe. The Copenhagen winger was recruited as a 14-year-old by Lange from Hvidovre IF as a youth prospect and it is not impossible to see history repeat itself. Daramy is the hottest prospect in Denmark after a stellar season with the runners-up.
Daramy hit 11 goals and racked up six assists across 46 games across the first and reserve teams for Copenhagen last season. Of those, seven goals and four assists came for the first team. While this doesn’t sound remarkable on paper, you must keep his two factors in mind.
First is his age. Those stats for an 18-year-old in his first season of first team football is mightily impressive. Secondly, many of his appearances have been off the bench. Daramy came on as a sub 24 times last season for the first team before asserting himself as a starter in November. In the 22 games that he started for the first team, he contributed six goals and three assists.
A useful aspect of Daramy’s game that is his versatility. While he is primarily a right winger, Daramy can easily slot in on the left or as a striker. Last season, he was deployed as a striker 16 times, averaging a goal every four games in that position. While that isn’t stellar, it is superior to anything Villa’s strikers could muster. Wesley’s scoring rate was around one goal every five games while Ally Samatta’s was a goal in 14 appearances. Keinan Davis failed to score from 18 appearances.
It wouldn’t be impossible for Villa to tempt Daramy away from Copenhagen because of the Lange connection. He knows exactly how the Danes operate in the transfer market and knows the sort of fee they would seek for his services. His market value is reported to be around £5.5 million according to Transfermarkt and Copenhagen have been known to sell their stars for around the £10 million mark before. Daramy would likely cost slightly more due to his young age, but Lange would be prepared for that should Villa go in for him.
Whether he rocks up at Villa Park or not, remember the name Mohammed Daramy.
Gerson, 23, Flamego (Market value: £12,600,000)
Guy Poxon, Contributor & Number Cruncher (@GuyPoxon)
Villa’s midfield is probably the most well-stocked department in terms of quality. McGinn and post-lockdown Douglas Luiz looked more than capable of holding their own in the top tier. If Villa look to move Grealish back into the midfield then those three spaces in Dean Smith’s favoured 4-3-3 at the heart of midfield might be locked down for the season. But every club should have ample cover for injuries and competition in case of loss of form. The jury is out on Marvelous Nakamba and Hourihane as starters in this league, but Villa probably wouldn’t mind another option, regardless.
The thought of adding another Brazilian connection to Villa’s squad is pretty mouthwatering – perhaps a more upmarket take on Wolves’ Portuguese project. Gerson Santos da Silva is Wesley’s and Douglas Luiz’s countryman. Gerson, going by his preferred name, is a 23 year-old box-to-box midfielder playing in the Brazilian league with Flamengo. The boy from Rio actually earned a 15 million Euro move to Roma, after breaking through at his first senior club Fluminense in Brazil. He was loaned to Fiorentina for a year, but was ultimately sold and returned home as the Brazilian League’s most expensive signing. What happened and why was his Italian sabbatical such a nightmare?
Villa’s scouting department will have Gerson on their radar. In truth, he wasn’t bad in Italy, but he was a bit underwhelming. He couldn’t nail down a starting position with Roma and his best spell was a year’s loan with Fiorentina where he made over 30 appearances, scoring 3 and assisting 3. The hard-tackling midfielder managed to accumulate 8 yellow cards in that period, too. He returned to Brazil when Roma realised they could recoup some lost money on an unfavoured player, and he has been Flamengo’s star player for two seasons.
Looking at last season and comparing Gerson to Villa’s midfield, he comes out on top when it comes to the number of touches he makes, passing volume and passing accuracy, and winning his ground duels. Compared to McGinn, Hourihane, Nakamba and Luiz, his passing stats in particular make the Brazilian could-have-been look quite tidy on the ball. He is relatively combative, especially compared to Hourihane, and he also makes a surprising number of forward runs and take-ons for a defensive midfielder. However, his shooting capability and goal-threat is less potent than Douglas Luiz’s or Hourihane’s – and you would think a fit John McGinn would comfortably double his goal contributions, too.
It would take a reasonable fee to take Flamengo’s star-man away, and for that price you would get a less defensively minded, but higher quality attacking option than Marvelous Nakamba. You would get a less productive, but more energetic and combative Conor Hourihane. Compared to McGinn and Luiz, it’s really difficult to tell whether Gerson would be on either of their levels, but that being said he has always been touted as a talent. This one is a maybe.
Adam Hlozek, 18, Sparta Praha (Market value: £8,100,000)
Alan Wilson, Contributor (@Villalan54)
Adam Hlozek is a young player from the Czech Republic who is currently making a big name for himself at Sparta Prague the Fortuna Liga.
On 10th November 2018 Hlozek made his league debut for Sparta at the age of just 16 years 3 months and 16 days in a 3-1 win over Karvina, making him the youngest player ever to appear for Sparta Prague in a league match. Since then he has clocked up 54 appearances and scored 10 goals for the club. Equally impressively, he has made five appearances for his native Czech Republic at U17 level and another five for the U21 side and in those 10 matches he has scored 6 goals. In 2019 Hlozek won a “Czech Talent of the Year” Award for his impressive performances. Hlozek can play on either wing and has also played as a ’second striker’.
The 18 year-old’s stellar performances have seen him drawing interest from such clubs as Arsenal and Bayern Munich who have both previously made approaches to sign him. Demonstrating maturity beyond his years and in the knowledge that he still has a huge amount to learn, he refused both of these footballing giants to continue his development with Sparta.
On 22nd August, in Sparta’s first match of this new season (2020/21) they won 4-1 at FC Zbrojovka Brno and Hlozek played for 89 minutes before being substituted. His basic stats for the game were reported by the club as follows:
Assists – 2
Passes – 58
Passing Accuracy – 74%
Shots at goal – 7
On target – 0
In 2019 when Arsenal came knocking for him, their former player and ex Czech Republic star Tomas Rosicky, who is now the Sporting Director at Sparta Prague was quoted as saying “I think it’s too early for him to go somewhere, lets be patient, let him grow up. He is 17 and if he continues to grow, he will not miss out on moving abroad. Now 12 months later, with an asking price of between £8m and £11m being quoted as Sparta’s valuation of him, Hlozek would be a measured risk for any Premier League club to splash out on.
However his early introduction into top flight football and the fact that he is progressing nicely on the International front as well, may indicate that perhaps he is an unknown entity worth taking a gamble on?