Lucas Digne has been rumoured with an exit throughout the summer – but back-to-back Man of the Match worthy performances may have turned opinion of the defender.
Marcos Acuña, Nuno Tavares and unfortunately, Marcos Alonso, have been just a handful of names that have been linked with Aston Villa this summer – despite the club currently having three left-backs in the form of Lucas Digne, Seb Revan and the preferred but currently injured Àlex Moreno.
With such links being commonplace during the transfer window, as well as rumours surrounding the future of Lucas Digne at the club, it has been easy to put one-and-one together and understand that perhaps the French international was out of favour under Unai Emery.
The 30-year-old defender has been linked with a loan move to OGC Nice in recent days, but the overarching rumour this summer has been that of Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal.
Initially, fans seemed open to an exit for Digne – just 18 months since he signed under Steven Gerrard. The Frenchman is on what could be considered inflated wages for his role in the squad, earning a figure thought to be over £100,000 a week despite not being a regular starter when Àlex Moreno is fit – and the idea of selling and replacing him with a cheaper option appealed.
It’s thought that Lucas is happy at Aston Villa, having been settled in England for the last five years with a young family. However, if Aston Villa were able to find a suitable replacement this summer then he would have been moved on. There have been attempts this summer, namely for Acuña, who now looks set to remain at Sevilla after picking up an injury that will see him out for several weeks in the side’s 4-3 loss to Alavés.
The uncertainty around Digne isn’t performance-based. The left-back has been average at best in his season and a half at Villa Park but with Moreno’s arrival, average has been good enough in his role as a backup. He is an expensive luxury, still with three years left on his contract, and a player whose exit could potentially make space financially for further investment.
In fact, across his last two performances against his former club Everton and then Hibernian, Digne has possibly produced two of his best performances in claret and blue.
Digne tested former team-mate Jordan Pickford over and over again at Villa Park, firing excellent crosses into the opposition box throughout the game. He was defensively sound too.
Against Hibernian, Villa’s number 12 notched a hat-trick of assists with his quality deliveries into the box, setting up two of Ollie Watkins’ goals and also firing a perfectly weighted cross for Leon Bailey to head in for his second goal in as many games.
With these showings, Digne is turning the tide of opinion against him both within the club and the fanbase. He’s given Emery plenty to think about – especially with Àlex Moreno’s impending return to training.
Emery admitted that they were managing Digne’s use in games initially with various clubs interested and that Digne leaving was a real possibility, as long as it suited the club and the player. He also admitted that the Frenchman is more likely to stay than leave currently.
Based on his past two performances, it would be negligent to let Lucas Digne leave the club – but as fans are aware at Aston Villa, form is fleeting and if Monchi could attract a sizeable fee for the defender and find an adequate replacement in the final week of the window, it would likely make sense to let him go.
Thus is the duality of Digne. A fine player, currently in form, but one that eats up a sizeable chunk of Villa’s wage bill. With three years left and the defender heading towards the wrong side of 30, does it make sense to cut ties while there’s genuine interest? The decision is bound to be a polarising one, for fans and management alike.