With Fulham gaining promotion this week and Valencia sinking further into their financial crisis (oh, sorry, ‘so called crisis’), Villarreal is left with two distinct options for how to approach their midfield purchases during this offseason. We have a standing option to buy Zambo Anguissa from Fulham for 25m, or we can reportedly gain both Coquelin and Dani Parejo from Valencia for 18-20m.
In Coquelin, as we’ve discussed before, we would be getting a player who is not necessarily a starter. He would probably rotate with Vincente Iborra at the base of the midfield, and we would still be without that dynamic passer in that deep sitting role. In fact, from a statistical standpoint the two profile rather similarly (though they accomplish it in different ways) and Iborra notably takes better care of the ball (this is likely because Coquelin is a far more active ball carrier).
Parejo, on the other hand, would bring leadership and versatility. He can play multiple positions in the midfield, and could be relied on heavily in possession. In a situation where Iborra or Coquelin were starting we could either see Parejo with them in a double pivot or playing above one of them in a three man midfield. In the latter situation he would be in a tactically similar role to the one Zambo played when we were in 433 last season, though of course he brings an entirely different dynamic to the midfield.
Ultimately though, the big catch is that Coquelin is 29 and Parejo is 31. We would be introducing two assets into the side that are not going to retain their value- it would be entirely a move to ‘win now’. With Albiol about to turn 35, Iborra turning 33 before next season ends, Asenjo aged 31, and Mario Gaspar entering his 30s this season, we need to carefully consider whether adding two more aged players is really best for the squad long term.
Zambo, on the other hand, is just 24 and we all know what he can do. He’s a dynamic player (though certainly not a deep lying DM) an excellent ball carrier, and it is the sheer variety of things he does well that impresses me. The major hiccup here is that Fulham, his parent club, just won a match that over the next three years will be worth at least 135m to them. After gaining promotion back to the English Premier League, their biggest concern is not cash it is talent acquisition. A player of Zambo’ caliber is worth more than 25m in the PL market, and Fulham will know that. We do have an option to buy Zambo outright for 25m, but per the terms of the deal that money would have to be paid up front unless we negotiated something else out with Fulham and now Fulham has no motivation to negotiate. I don’t see Villarreal putting out that kind of cash all at once on one player.
The positive of this move would be that Zambo is already a better player than either Parejo or Coquelin and his value is only going to go up, but going into a year with three competitions we may not be able to afford to bet on the upside as we try to compete and win a trophy now.
With Kubo inbound, the pieces of next season’s squad have started to fall into place. I think our midfield deal for the Valencia pair is the more likely way this will go, but I also strongly feel that over the next five years the club would be much better off if they found the money for Zambo now- and gained a profit on selling him in a year or two.
Note: The club has also been linked to Guendouzi from Arsenal. I actually see more potential in this move than some folks around the site. Emery clearly rates the player and Matteo does not get along at all with Mikel Arteta. This could be a situation where we loan him in for a year with a buy option. In that case we could do that deal regardless of what happens with the two options above.