Shropshire Star

Key Aston Villa transfer activity could directly affect Jhon Duran

Villa will consider allowing Jhon Duran to leave this month if they are able to sign another striker.

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Duran joined from Chicago Fire in a deal worth £18million last January but his short-term future is uncertain with AC Milan one of several clubs across Europe and England keeping tabs on the situation.

The 20-year-old Colombia international has scored four goals in 33 appearances for Villa, though only five of those were starts and it is believed he has previously expressed unhappiness at a lack of playing time.

It means he could now depart, most likely on loan, though any deal would be dependent on Villa securing a replacement to provide cover and competition for Ollie Watkins. A move to Milan would also require some work, with the Italian club needing to move a non-EU player off the books before they could sign Duran.

Villa are content to see how things develop, with Emery having recently stressed the difficulty of recruiting a striker capable of backing up Watkins, who has firmly established himself as the club’s No.1 forward since the sale of Danny Ings to West Ham 12 months ago.

Emery resisted calls to sign an experienced forward during that window and is prepared to do so again, with the head coach determined to only add players who will improve the squad he already has. Other areas of focus include right-back and midfield, though a new goalkeeper is not a priority with Robin Olsen expected to return to fitness in the next week.

Villa are prepared to let a number of fringe players depart. Calum Chambers, whose only start of the season was in the 3-2 Europa Conference League defeat at Legia Warsaw, is chief among them while the club will listen to offers for winger Bertrand Traore.

The latter has not featured since sustaining injury while on international duty with Burkina Faso and his participation in this month’s Africa Cup of Nations, having now recovered his fitness while working at Bodymoor Heath, is cause for considerable consternation at Villa. Traore, out of contract next summer, has made just 24 appearances for the club since August, 2021.

Villa are, meanwhile, expected to bank £2.5million from the sale of midfielder Finn Azaz to Middlesbrough.

The 23-year-old Albion academy product is on course to leave two-and-a-half years after joining on a free transfer from the Baggies, having never appeared in a matchday squad.

Azaz has spent nearly all of his time at Villa on loan, first with Newport in League Two and for the past 18 months with Plymouth, helping them win promotion from League One last season.

He has scored seven goals in the Championship this term, his form attracting the interest of several clubs with Boro seeing off competition from Bristol City and others for his signature.

Should the deal be completed in time, Azaz could feature against Villa when they visit Teesside for Saturday’s FA Cup third round tie.