Aston Villa are preparing a summer move for Sporting Lisbon’s Manuel Ugarte, according to reports.
What’s the latest on Aston Villa’s interest in Ugarte?
As per Portuguese newspaper O Jogo (via Sport Witness), Villa are one of a host of Premier League clubs, including the likes of Newcastle United, Leeds United, Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers clubs, chasing the Sporting CP star.
They will also have to fight off interest from Italian giants AC Milan and AS Roma, who are also both named as interested in the player.
This adds to a report from the same outlet last week which states that Unai Emery’s side sent a scout to watch the 21-year-old in action against Arsenal in the Europa League, and were impressed by the midfielder’s performance.
The piece also suggests that the Uruguayan destroyer currently has a €60m (£53m) release clause with Sporting already trying to renew his contract to ensure that clause is increased.
Why do Aston Villa want Ugarte?
As a combative, young midfielder with high potential, it makes sense why Villa are now interested in signing Ugarte.
Emery is keen to strengthen his squad this summer with players who could develop at Villa Park throughout his reign, as it is expected he will target Europe in his first full season in charge at the Midlands outfit.
Ugarte has been one of the best players in Portugal this season and has played a key role in getting Sporting to the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals, although the youngster was sent off in the round-of-16 victory over Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.
As per FBref, the Montevideo-born starlet has made the most tackles won (86), the most dribbles challenged (82), as well as the fifth most ball recoveries (167) in the entire Primeira Liga this season.
He also ranks in the top 1% of all midfielders outside Europe’s top five leagues for average tackles and pass completion rate per game, as well as in the top 3% for blocks, 4% for interceptions, and top 6% for successful take-ons.
His all-action nature as a player is illustrated by him being described as a “midfield machine” by Football Talent Scout Jacek Kulig.
Ugarte could form a long-term midfielder partnership with the impressive 23-year-old Boubacar Kamara, who arrived from Marseille last summer.
If Villa sporting director Johan Lange is able to bring the two together at Villa Park next season, Emery may well have the base of his midfield taken care of for many years to come.