Ahead of Aston Villa’s meeting with Chelsea on Saturday, Unai Emery reveals the truth behind reports linking Joao Felix with a stunning move to Villa Park in the January transfer window.
Unai Emery has revealed that signing Joao Felix in January “was not totally impossible” as Aston Villa held discussions with the Portuguese’s agent, Jorge Mendes.
The 23-year-old became available in the winter transfer market after his relationship with Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone became strained. Felix was then linked with a move to Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and, given Mendes’ strong association with Emery and Nassef Sawiris, Aston Villa.
Villa were frontrunners to sign the one-time £113m man on loan before Chelsea swooped in and rubber-stamped the £10m loan deal for the remainder of the season, with the Blues also taking on Felix’s £250,000-a-week salary.
Ahead of this weekend’s meeting against Chelsea and the Portuguese superstar, Emery was quick to downplay the prospect of bringing Felix to Villa Park but confirmed that tentative discussions did take place.
He said: “We are realistic about how we can improve, how we can add players to improve our squad. Joao Felix was not totally impossible for us but he wanted to play for a team in the Champions League.
“He has a high salary, and he plays at Chelsea on loan. Chelsea paid a lot of money for that. He’s a very good player but we were never really in the running for him.”
Chelsea spent more than £300m alone in the January transfer window to bring in the likes of Felix, Enzo Fernandez (£105m) and Mykhaylo Mudryk (£89m). Villa, meanwhile, go into Saturday’s tea-time clash level on points with the Blues knowing a win can take them above Graham Potter’s side and into the top ten.
Given Chelsea’s spending power, Emery was asked about the level of competition in the Premier League given Villa’s ambition is to secure European football across the next couple of seasons.
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“Of course, our club as well as our owners, they have ambition and want to spend money intelligently; being demanding, trying to be closer to the teams that are in the top four now, or teams like Chelsea, spending a lot of money and have a lot of very good players.
“It’s the resume I told you at the very beginning, we aren’t in the running to sign Joao Felix but, for us, it was very difficult. It was very difficult to sign one player like him thinking to play in the Champions League and thinking now he’s better than us. Our idea is to reduce this idea with them and to reduce the distance and to get them [kind of players] in one, two or three years. Spending money like they did? No! Trying to keep consistent and trying to get another way in our work.”