In Jores Okore, Aston Villa have made the most impressive signing in the Premier League this summer. He may not be the most famous name coming to England from overseas, or the most expensive but the title says it all. Villa signed him from under Chelsea’s nose. Chelsea wanted him as part of their policy of hauling in all the young talent they can get and then would presumably have loaned him out for a few years where if he impressed the usual questions about where he fit in would be asked. By joining Villa Okore has skipped that phase and joins a club where he will be an instant first choice and a potentially huge upgrade on what they have at the moment.
Okore is just 21 years old and yet already has 7 caps and has played in the Champions League. He is a rugged, physically dominating central defender, the type that Villa don’t have. He is a lot quicker than any of the incumbents and is very strong. He can be an ideal partner for Ron Vlaar who is a decent organiser and leader but is certainly not quick. He is not as elegant as Villa’s last iconic Danish centre back Martin Laursen but he has the ability to be every bit as good.
He is raw, more of a prospect than an instant fix. However, last summer Villa signed a raw prospect who wasn’t an instant fix and he turned out to be Christian Benteke. There are a quite a few similarities in their football backgrounds. Both come from smaller European leagues. Okore is joining from Nordsjaelland in Denmark. Both were renowned for their physical traits rather than technical ability and both came to Villa looking to show that they can play at an elite level and thrive. Both arrived hungry. It says a lot for Okore’s ambition that he chose to take the riskier move to Villa and play first team football than to potentially get lost on the Chelsea bench. Villa have signed a young man who will be looking to prove he made the right decision. He will be motivated and full of desire.
Okore fits the Villa transfer profile of the last year perfectly. He’s young and talented, coming from a less established league. Villa have tended to sign lots of these players and see what sticks. Last season Benteke, Lowton and Westwood became key men and Mo Sylla showed signs of promise. All came from leagues outside the ‘big five’. Villa are trying this policy again this summer.
Okore joins Aleksander Tonev who has been signed from Bulgaria and Leandro Bacuna who has come from Groningen in the Dutch Eredivisie. They could also be followed by Niklas Helenius from Aalborg in Denmark. Villa are pretty much cornering the market in these second tier leagues which is allowing them to sign the best that they have to offer. It’s riskier, the move from these leagues to the Premier League is a big one, but they come cheaper and full of desire. It’s like sifting for Gold. If you put enough of it in you will eventually find some. Tonev should bring directness and pace to the left wing, Bacuna will bring passing and work in the midfield and Helenius is a big body up front with a good goals record.
Villa are pursuing a unique transfer policy, one that involves thorough and high quality scouting, but if they keep dredging up a new Benteke or two it will work a treat. They got in trouble by overpaying for average Premier League players. £9m on Reo-Coker, £8m Curtis Davies, £9m N’Zogbia, Ireland on £60k a week etc. so it makes sense to try something different. Good luck to them, they deserve to be rewarded for being innovative and creative in the markets.