With Aston Villa recently confirming the appointment of Steven Gerrard as Dean Smith’s successor in the Villa Park dugout, attention has immediately turned to the business the 41-year-old manager could look to do in the January window, with one name having already cropped up on a number of occasions – that of Ryan Kent.
Indeed, upon Gerrard’s increasingly strong links with a move to Villa on Tuesday, Birmingham Live reported that the Rangers manager’s appointment could see him reignite Aston Villa’s 2019 interest in a move for the then-Liverpool winger – who was ultimately convinced of a permanent move to Ibrox by Gerrard.
A similar report by the Liverpool Echo also suggested that the 41-year-old could go on to realise Liverpool’s prediction that the winger would be making a return to the Premier League before too long – with this being the reason behind a 20% sell-on clause negotiated by the Reds upon his departure from Anfield.
The Sun have also jumped on the bandwagon of claiming that the former Liverpool captain could look to make a move for Kent in the January transfer window, going as far as to include the 25-year-old in a predicted Aston Villa lineup under the new leadership of Gerrard.
It is easy to see why so many outlets are suggesting that the new Villa boss could be plotting a move for the former England U20 international this winter, as Gerrard is clearly a huge fan of the forward – who flourished under the leadership of the 41-year-old at Ibrox.
Indeed, after scoring six goals and registering six assists over his 27 Scottish Premiership appearances during a loan spell in 2018/19, Gerrard fought off the likes of Leeds United and Villa to bring that season’s PFA Scotland Young Player of the Year back to Glasgow on a permanent basis the following summer, spending £7.5m on the winger.
Kent proved worthy of this hefty fee almost immediately, scoring seven goals over 21 appearances in the curtailed 2019/20 Premiership campaign, as well as bagging a further goal and four assists over 12 fixtures in the Europa League, SFA Cup and Scottish League Cup.
However, it was undoubtedly over his 37 Premiership appearances during Rangers’ title-winning campaign last term that the £12.6m-rated man proved his ability as a top-level talent, scoring 10 goals, registering 11 assists and creating nine big chances for his teammates.
These returns saw the £18k-per-week forward earn a highly impressive seasonal SofaScore match rating of 7.23 – ranking the 25-year-old as the seventh-best performer in the top flight of Scottish Football.
As such, it is easy to see why Gerrard is such a fan of the Oldham-born attacker, with the Villa boss dubbing Kent as a “dangerous” player, as well as revealing how crucial a part of the Rangers side he believes the former Liverpool man to be.
During the winger’s recovery from a hamstring injury earlier this season, Gerrard claimed: “Missing a player of Ryan’s quality, with what he gives us on both sides of the game, is always going to have an effect. It’s always going to be a challenge for other people to step in because of his high quality and his standards.”
And, with Villa’s regular options on the wing, Emiliano Buendia, Bertrand Traore, Anwar El Ghazi and Leon Bailey having scored just three Premier League goals between them so far this season, as well as providing a total of just three assists, the argument can easily be made that Gerrard’s new side are in need of a fresh face out wide this January.
So, when taking into account Kent’s highly impressive returns north of the border, Gerrard’s obvious fondness of the winger and Villa’s lack of both goals and creativity from the wing, it would indeed seem highly advisable for the 41-year-old to do all he can to make the 25-year-old his first signing this winter, as the Englishman would appear to be exactly what Villa are missing at present.