Villa took to the pitches again over the weekend in a couple of friendlies starring a number of players who undoubtedly will not be featuring in the season opener. The results weren’t bad, and of course it’s always about running around.

However, while getting their legs back might be the stated priority in preseason friendlies, it is also the time your squad is supposed to start coming together. And were Villa not in financial crisis, we’d have a pretty decent squad looking to push on.

As it is, it’s anyone’s guess what our squad will actually be. We’ve read all the newspaper bits, the blog bits scraping off the newspaper bits, and done our own navel gazing. We’re still not any wiser.

Grealish continues to be linked with Spurs, Liverpool are or aren’t interested, we’ve knocked back a lowball offer for James Chester from Stoke. People have said some nice things about Ritchie De Laet on Twitter. We’ve got an aged Dean Marney training with us for a week.

But the most interesting tidbit of the last few days has been Milan Mandaric who, instead of leading a takeover bid, appears to be advising a potential bidder. Whether or not this has anything to do with Xia returning to England at long last is anyone’s guess. I’ve seen speculation that Tony is maybe wrapping his head around the fact he can’t retain control of the club. True? Who knows. But I hope it is.

I’ll admit that I’ve been at a loss to understand the money side of all this. Because instead of just accepting what I’ve read I decided to try and learn something. And I think I’ve only confused myself—particularly in regard to an owner’s ability to inject cash to cover losses. While Xia has stated that selling a minority stake wouldn’t impact FFP concerns, I do find it interesting that the amount most often quoted is £30m. Which, coincidentally, is the maximum amount an owner can pull out of his pocket to address losses in a three-year period. One guesses that apart from paying the bills (which seems to be an ongoing concern), this is the other complication of Xia supposedly having money that he can’t get out of China. Does he actually have the money? Who knows.

If the above has any truth or potential truth to it, then perhaps it would also be the case that the FFP hit wouldn’t necessarily be as severe this year as we’ve been anticipating. Villa went from a £25m-£30m loss in 2015-16 (due to that lovely infrastructure write-down), to £14.5m in 2016-17, and then perhaps even came close to breaking even this season past—I’ve seen it said we did, based on player sales. I’ve seen £44.2m in losses over the three-year period including 2017-18. If the rolling three-year period sees us with £14m + last season + this season, then last year and this year would see us needing to lose no more than £24.5m, including the loss in income from the lower parachute payment.

Perhaps Xia has injected all the money he can in covering losses already, but there seems to have been a lot of  leveraging going on for that to be the case.

Anyway, my thinking (or desperate hope) has been that Villa could perhaps hold onto a couple of key players and—along with trying to hold out for the best price or even find someone willing to take some of the players—that this has something to do with the lack of outward movement.

For example, according to The Times we still owe £3m for Hogan. So, sell him for £3m if you have to, get that off the books along with say £2m in wages, and you’ve trimmed £5m. Sadly, we still owe Fulham £6m for Ross McCormack, but only £2m for Chester. So selling Chester and taking risks at the back makes sense at this point. If we can hold out for £8m-£10m, then we net £6m-£8m plus the wage savings. That’s a quarter of the £40m we’ve been hearing about. Minus Terry and Snodgrass…I dunno, but maybe we’d be up to £14m-£15m trimmed. If we save £5m on Hogan, then we’re getting closer. Make a profit on him, and so much the better. This is why I haven’t quite given up hope that we could somehow improbably mount another promotion challenge.

Which is probably why the minority bid that purportedly was rejected is said to have included putting a £40m price on Jack, and then covering the shortfall if someone didn’t cough that up.

So, I’m guessing that current discussions are covering a lot of ground. Not really sure why Tony would need to jet over just to talk transfer fees.

There’s the optimist in me. Or fool. Never mind the fact I’m not great with numbers. But the fact that there do appear to be suitors suggests someone sees profitability in Villa’s future. One would assume that presumes a shorter wait for return on investment than a long one.  But I can’t see how anyone really thinks they’ll make much money in the Championship. It’s all about getting back up into the TV money. Which takes us back to someone wanting to hang on to Jack.

On the other hand, perhaps a low-budget, re-tooled squad can emulate other Championship success stories and get us out without running at a loss. And maybe that can happen in 2019-20. And perhaps that’s what these purported investors/buyers are looking at.

The optimist in me is also desperately hoping that Xia is being realistic and diligent and not letting his pride get in the way. Maybe he really does think he can go it alone if spending is matched up to revenue. Which one understands if we’re clever enough to do the right kind of rebuild.

Anyway, it all seems like it might be coming to a head.

What can we do in the meantime? I suppose every Villan should buy the new home and away kits sharpish, sell out the season tickets, and stuff the Christmas stockings with mugs and scarves. It all goes to the bottom line.

And of course offer up prayers that someone solvent is actually interested in buying and Xia is willing to walk away.

Over to you.

Comments 77

  1. jc
    any transfer we make we only get fraction of it up front ,something to do with length of contract so if we sell chester we wont get any cash at all by time we pay off previous club
    it seems to be we have borrowed against all money owed and still owe for all docs buys

  2. JC, I don’t think FFP is Villa’s first priority. The real issue for me is where is Xia going to find the money to pay the wages for the coming season? He’s already leveraged the tangible assets to the point that there isn’t much left to take out a loan on. If he’s already spent the season ticket money and the final parachute payment, we need to sell to survive.

    One of Codger and Hogan will be sold. Preferably I’d keep Hogan and sell Codger but JL will likely disagree. Either way, I’m convinced Xia will sell anyone where an offer is received that is close to value.

  3. JG,

    Yes, the payments in are amortized. If we pay off previous club, it wipes that liability off the books. This is where the three-year rolling loss gets a bit confusing.

  4. Plug,

    This is why I’m thinking he has to be considering selling. He’s got to cut down expenses or face a sizable fine (which may or may not precede a points deduction) related to FFP.

    If he gets investment to cover wages, payments, etc., then he still has the loans and a threadbare squad. But if Xia can only pay the bills with investment, then it’s a long slog.

  5. Like you John I’m not much when it comes to figuring out the money angles on player transfers. I really think it’s a my way or the highway with Xia. He’s not willing to give up the club-the last bit of respect he feels he is due despite his woeful record to date. Not able to get money out smacks of dad not bankrolling him anymore for being so foolish. This man is going to hang on til time up is past and the whole lot comes crashing down followed by a hasty retreat to China.
    Like Bruce’s relationship with McCormack. Stubborn mules, both of them.

  6. Yeah, Ian. I’m just not sure how it counts on the books. For example, we sell Grealish for £20m. Say we get four £5m installments. I don’t know what he’s making, but let’s maybe exaggerate and say £40k a week. So if the yearly installment is the only value that counts as income in that year, then combined, Jack nets us £7m in savings. And he’s obviously our most valuable asset. Leaving £33m-38m more to cut.

    I have a hard time seeing where that comes from. If we sold Grealish and Chester combined at £30m, then we get £7.5m that year plus wage savings of £4m? So £12.5m…You’re still looking for £30m after selling your two best players.

  7. Maybe it’s best to go down in flames trying to keep players. 12 points deducted isn’t the end of the world nor is a £4 mill fine. Maybe say screw it to FFP and pay the penalties and go for it.

  8. Also, Ian…

    Again, really don’t know about the rest. My guess is that if Xia does indeed have the money and its use is being restricted by government policy, then he’s screwed. So, he tries to hang on, make the necessary cuts, and see if he can’t still get Villa up. And that’s “if” he actually has the money.

    If he sells, then the devil is in the details. Does he get new buyers to meet his asking price and cover his outstanding expenditures? Maybe…If they think what they’re buying will be worth more than what they’re paying. And that means going up, and digging in for the long haul.

    Just like we never really knew what Lerner was doing, it’s hard to know what’s going on here. But I guess I’m saying that Xia’s “stubbornness” is purely financial.

  9. Ian,

    I’ve wondered that…I’ve seen larger fines mentioned, but they could be typos. It’s just really aggravating not to be able to have transparency. If it were the NFL, you’d know exactly what you’re looking at.

    But if you had the same team bar Terry, Snodgrass, and Johnstone, would you like to think you could finish four or more wins better over the course of the season? Most on here would think we should’ve done last year.

  10. JG,

    In looking at it further, when a player is sold, the fee minus the outstanding amount owed, is counted as profit. So the bit about Chester would remain valid: Owe £2m, sell for £10m, then £8m profit on the year. The payments are spread out, but the differential counts as profit for the operating year.

    So, if Grealish is sold for £20m, then it’s £20m in profit since there is no outstanding amount due anyone else for him.

  11. JG,

    I think from what I’m seeing is that for FFP accounting purposes, the money counts as profit all in the year in which the player is sold (if there is actual profit). However, yes, the payments themselves are spread out over time.

  12. Whatever fee is paid for the player is amortized over his contract, £10m over 5 year contract £2m in the books each year. If he signs a new contract for another 5 after say 2 years interestingly it then becomes £6m over 5 years. So long contracts and extending contracts is a way of lowering yearly costs and getting around FFP? Obvious set back is the wages on a player you may not want but can’t get rid of. It does explain the higher the fee the longer the contract though, Hogan, Kodjia, RMC?

    Heres the sale of Robinho explained for selling a player you have bought.

    ““ He was bought for £32.5 million in September 2008 on a four-year contract, so annual amortisation was £8.1 million. He was sold after two years, so cumulative amortisation was £16.2 million, leaving a value of £16.3m in the books. Sale price to Milan is reported as £18 million, so City will report a profit on sale of £1.7 million in the 2010/11 accounts. Therefore, City will show an annual profit improvement of £18.1 million after this deal: £8.3 million lower wages + £8.1 million lower amortisation + £1.7 million profit on sale.”

    I was wondering what happens when you get rid off a player but still owe money on him? is this an exceptional loss? we binned loads when RDM turned up.

    I can’t see how we can get around paying the clubs we owe and the loans taken out by Xia even if we magically pass FFP. Surely most of the profit will be gobbled up in Tonys shenanigans?

  13. Mark,

    The most worrying bit, as you say, is that Tony does not seem to have a way to pay ongoing expenses. Whether it’s because he can’t get money out of China, doesn’t have any money, or what…dunno. But he’s apparently borrowed against virtually everything.

  14. rogermuffin,

    Ha…arrggh indeed!

    To think we’ll sell him just to pay the bills, in the end. If any of the so-called ‘reports’ are to be believed, at least some outside investors realize a player like Jack is crucial to Villa.

    To Xia, he’s just crucial like a payday loan.

  15. Pleased to see Spud played 3-5-2 the other night against Walsall. It paid dividends although it must be said that it needs a Grealish to pull the strings and if he’s off……..

  16. Plug- yes we played very well except kodjia who the game bypassed mostly, I would get rid if possible, just not a team player. Our problem will be we don’t have the cb’s to play that way against top teams nor the cover, Hutton played left CB Taylor at wingback. One injury and we are buggered, not one youth player started the game though.

  17. Agreed, I just don’t know if Kodjia can regain his form, never mind being a bit of a lone wolf.

    And depth is certainly an issue.

    However…Is the miracle about to take place? Today the papers are full of “talks with Middle Eastern group to take control of club” are all over the place. I hope they’re true.

  18. Yes JC looks promising with things hopefully being done by tomorrow I’ve read, with our luck it will be Bashar al-Assad. Maybe someone from Qatar? might be tied to the world cup? putting us and that together might be considered a catch who Knows.

  19. Heard tonight that a select few youth players have been put on bulking up regimes with Ollie, also heard that brum bought a fullback for £2.5m and were then told by the FFP lot that they can’t keep him as they have a transfer embargo and they either have to find the money or send him back.

  20. Hope it’s not Al-Fayed having withdrawal shakes after 5 years out of the game since he sold Fulham.

    The real money in the Middle East is in the oil rich Gulf States. Egypt is defo second class in the rich stakes so I hope you are wrong MK.

  21. IT’s official now, Xia remaining as co-chairman and we have two new billionaires joining, Sawiris, who is Egyptian, and Edens, who is American, and involved with Addidas and a lot more…

    Villa now have rich owners, who want the club to succeed..!!!!

  22. Both rich and both Business men, the American involved in sports.
    ” Sawiris is quite wealthy and that is an understatement. Bloomberg lists him as the #234 on the Billionaires index with $6.91/£5.27 Billion”

    Does this mean we can keep players? they have bought 55% an odd number unless it covers debt etc as 51% would of done. You would assume thats £55m investment going on the 30% offer at £30m.

  23. In a joint statement they said:

    “We look forward to working with Dr Tony to undertake a thorough assessment and evaluation of the club in the coming weeks and our priority is to strengthen the squads and structures ahead of the upcoming season and beyond.”

    To achieve that aim they will have to tell Levy to do one. I will defer judgement until I see what they do, not what they say.

  24. “The future is exciting on a number of fronts and I look forward to exploring further business collaborations.”

    That statement from Xia says he is looking at there involvement in construction, chemicals, media, investment,telecoms,energy etc and thinking about his own companies and how they link up. A potential investor if the Chinese banks won’t play with Tony perhaps?

  25. Certainly a very interesting and seemingly almost-too-good-to-be-true development.

    Now we can pay our bills, and we should be taking Jack off the table sharpish. Chester, too.

    As we’ve been led to understand, this won’t necessarily fix FFP, but it changes the dynamic substantially as far as the near term.

    I’ll get some thoughts up later, but certainly cause for celebration.

  26. JG
    The Daily Mail along with the Mirror, is trying it’s best to make your wish come true, pushing a scenario of Thierry Henri replacing Bruce.
    But it is only the nonsense comic, plus Murdoch’s wolf in sheep’s clothing purporting to be a worker’s paper, pushing this line so far, but who knows.

  27. What a fascinating story this will turn out to be, if Sawiris decides he wants Thierry Henri as his new manager, as every time I have listened to him on tv , as a pundit, I thought what a great manager he would make.

    I am sure that the speed that things are starting to move at, there is much more news to come, and maybe we will become that great club once again. It would appear, with the amount of money being invested, that Sawiris is not just here for fun, but is looking forward to owning our club. He seems to be the driving force behind the deal, and his three sons are likely to be with him.

  28. Paul, of course Henri was assistant manager for Belgium under another manager many here thought not good enough for Villa. However, I must admit even Lambert could have got that team of talented players to the semi-finals!
    Despite all the elation being shown here I do not think Villa will be out of the Championship for 2 to 3 years as under the FPP rules you no longer can buy yourselves a promotion

  29. CLIVE
    bruce tried to buy his way up twice ,twice failed first year splashed cash on leagues best players,second year splashed out on mega wages for old players yet hughton wagner warnock and fulham managers got promotion by not spending a fortune ,having a manager who had a plan,idea system style everything bruce doesnt
    time for a new man with not so much new ideas just new compared to dinosaur bruce

  30. We can only wait with baited breath for the next new chapter in the Villa saga…
    .Will Levy pay up the £30 million JG is worth, and will we keep Chester, who alongside Elphick, should be a great pairing, and so far have looked good.

    Unfortunately, Jack needs to go for his own good, more than just for Villa to just comply with FFP.

    We then only need to sell a few more to balance the books, and bring a fresher look to the squad. I am sure, if we do have a new manager, there will plenty of the squad wanting to prove themselves.

  31. iana g
    used to like reading moxeley in mirror gone off him completley his backing of bruce unreal saying bruce worked under harsh conditions at vp last season like jt on 3m snoddy on 2m signing elmo whelan samba etc

  32. Thierry Henri?
    This smacks of new owners wanting an exciting big name in order to raise the profile of the club overseas.
    We need a manager who can manage, not one who’s picked because he looks good in front of China, America or Egypt’s media.
    Exactly the same mistake that Xia made when he arrived but without even the benefit of the ‘big name’ having had previous club management success.
    It would be a complete gamble.
    Please no.

  33. JG
    As you’re in Ireland, you may not know that the Birmingham Mail is now owned by the Mirror Group, & basically regurgitates their crapness in an even worse way.
    Most local papers are now owned by large groups, so very few actual real local papers left in the mainland.

  34. Sad to see so many fans afraid of Villa taking on one of the world’s most exciting and knowledgeable players as a manager, when Bruce has, with all his wealth of experience, failed to get Villa promoted over his spell of nearly 2 seasons.

    Wagner had very little experience, but managed it on a shoe string, so why shouldn’t Thierry make a success , and looks like Brian Little is back on board, and maybe it is his recommendation..!!

  35. PP
    Wagner had a lot of experience with Klopp before he took on management on his own.
    Henri has had 5 minutes, so would be a huge gamble.
    For me I would love to see the back of Bruce, but not out of the frying pan into the fire.

    But who knows what they’ve really got in mind as yet

  36. PP. don’t get me wrong, if Henri became our manager I too, wouldn’t be able to help myself feeling excited at the prospect.
    It would be great to see a man of his stature in the game at Villa Park. But whilst the heart is excited, the head is saying. . . hang on, he has diddly squat experience of managing a football team. Let’s face it, the road of football management has dozens of highly successful players discarded in the ditch alongside it.
    We’ve done our fair share of gambling, and ‘going with our hearts rather than our heads’ in recent years and this feels all too familiar to an increasingly cynical supporter like me.

  37. PP. Wagner is a great success story. To his credit, Mark was championing his cause even before he’d ‘made it’ at Huddersfield, but that was at least based on his experience at Dortmund.
    Although he played at a high level in Germany, he wasn’t a household name by any means. He was chosen for his managerial skills rather than his success as a player and on tv.
    Gary Neville was a successful player and pundit, but where did that get him as a manager?
    Ok, Neville didn’t have the Renault Clio ads on his cv but those won’t win us games.

  38. I still think that Steve Bruce deserves far more credit than some people are giving him.
    When he took over we were heading the way of Sunderland and many people on here were predicting exactly that even before the season started.
    He turned us round and took us to mid table security. We’d have been 8th based on the games he managed us which is good when you consider what he took over.
    Last season he took us within a whisker of promotion.
    He was successful in attracting some excellent loanees, but despite their high salaries he was working within very tight cost cutting constraints and overall had to manage with negative net investment.
    We may be able to do better than him, but it’s unfair to denigrate what he has done for us.

  39. Spud deployed 3-5-2 again yesterday. Lifers will know I’m a fan of this formation because it’s more attack focused and Spud admits it’s his preferred set up. At Burton the back 3 were Cafu, Chester and Taylor.

    IMHO, there is not enough pace in those 3 for this formation although Cafu played well. Spud needs to find much more pace if he’s going to use it next season.

    First half yesterday was poor. We should have been trailing 3-1 at half time but the Brewers missed some sitters. Second half was all Villa.

  40. plug
    bruce hasnt a clue on his preferred set up,changes like the weather ,if he likes 3 centre halves how come we have only chester to play there,he made it quite clear last season he didnt rate elphik now he expects elphik to fall in line along with all the rest of players he discarded

  41. Apparently Spud is now a little concerned about his future, after spitting out his coffee, reading it in the press. Meanwhile, while Spud is still in control, looks like he wants the same players back again, with Onomah and Terry now linked with a return, and perhaps we will chuck some money Snodgrass’s way after the match next week, if Bruce is still in charge.

    It was good to see De Laet and Elphick have good run outs yesterday, and Villa win, after a very poor start, which as Plug pointed out should have seen the Brewers two or three up.

    Bruce seems to be having problems with injuries again, with Blackett-Taylor going off with a hamstring. Hope this is not going to be a problem again this season.

    The difference I see, with Henri, is he has a brain, which the likes of the Neville’s and Carragher’s do not, they are fairly simple types, like most football pundits. Thierry reads the game with great depth, and the managerial skills that people think he lacks, may well be already there, with his close association with Arsne Wenger, who could be part of the new Villa set-up, maybe as a Director of Football….who knows what is to come..

  42. PP
    You’ll be eating snails next.
    A change is sooo tempting, but let’s see what Eden & co are going to inflict on us first, even though they are making all the right noises so far.

  43. Blackett-Taylor is getting better & better, but injuries are always the problem with young players.
    I note that the U23s now in the first team squad are getting bulked up at BH, which should help.
    We’ve still got to get a fair few players off the wages bill though.
    There’s paper talk of MacGate going on loan to Sunderland.

  44. I agree that Taylor has no snap, & prefers to stand in the way letting the opposition cross, rather than snapping into a tackle like Hutton.
    Definitely not a centre back, it all improved when Mitch Clark came on on the left as well.

  45. Good to hear about the new investment. I also hope this means Villa can hang onto key players if they want to stay.
    Delaet’s goal was a beauty.
    I wouldn’t mind Henri managing Villa. I like Spud, but I think Villa need something different.

  46. Plug
    I hope we have the right players left after the window shuts to play 3 at the back, as we have enough attacking players to use the system [which I also like]

  47. I can see Henri being a risk ( if its true) and a big one for new management but that said so many top managers went from player to manager at clubs or maybe had a season managing reserves etc that it may be worth that risk, Pepe, Deschamps, Simione, clough, Dalglish,Heynckes all had short stints before finding success

    I agree with PP that Henri shows an intelligence much like Southgate does and Wagner when I first heard him talk. Bruce unfortunately doesn’t and although he may deserve some credit we cannot know for sure that it all could not have been bettered by another approached differently.

    People may have feared relegation in our first season (god knows we’d got use to being afraid by then)but losing 3 games in 11 from the position we were in under RDM wasn’t exactly rubbish especially as we were drawing from winning positions hitting the woodwork, creating chances and never lost more than one on the trot. Compared to Sunderlands 6 losses, 4 draws and one win last season in 11? its nothing. Bruces biggest problem has been his teams slump and then recover multiple times, probably why he’s never won the league.

  48. Executive Chairman – Nassef Sawiris
    Co-Chairman – Wes Edens
    Co-Chairman – Dr Tony Xia
    Advisor to the Board – Brian Little

    This is on the Villa site.
    Paul Pears will be glad to see that Brian Little is officially on board

  49. If I were Bruce, I would take the £2million and be on a plane to the Maldives on Wednesday morning, saying thank you very much for my time managing a “big club”.

    I suspect that Little recommended De Matteo, but may have disagreed with the time he was given, and now he is probably behind the Thierry move, and much of what is happening was planned several weeks ago, hence Thierry’s resignation from Sky, and John Terry’s recruitment.

    Naswiri now probably owns 55% of the new Villa set-up, with Eden’s share 25% and the Doc 20%, meaning that the Doc can step out easily in the future, if he wishes. Naswiri will be looking at the future, and all the development possibilities around Villa Park and Bodymoor Heath.

  50. PP
    It was reported that Eden & Naswiri put in 55% between them, but it basically means that Xia can be outvoted with Naswiri as the majority shareholder & CEO.
    If you read the article I posted the url for, you would see another partnership possibility.
    Whether it’s the approach being used is anyone’s guess at the moment.
    Maybe you’re right about Little, maybe not.

  51. PP
    But I do agree about the Maldives!
    Maybe we should do a Lifer Draw, with the winner to when Bruce goes getting a holiday in the Maldives!!!

  52. re: Henri
    Would he be effective with the coaches we have, or would the merry-go-round start again, & can we afford it?
    With Round gone, have we still got the ‘Villa Way’?

  53. IanG- did we ever see the Villa Way? to me the U23 etc just played as they always have and Bruce as he did.

    To claim a style of football can’t be implemented over night is a bit crazy especially at the youth level. I don’t think we were reinventing football in any way shape or form, the only change I can see needed apart from coaching it was maybe targeting players to suit. By saying it will take years did he mean none of our players can play how we want? not likely as most of them were not suited to Bruces style of being defensive either, as footballers they had to be good at something 🙂

    good article on Wes Edens ta

  54. Mark
    I agree with most of your post, & the U23s seemed to have slotted in well to the friendlies so far
    It was a bit of a rhetorical question really, & thanks for responding, although it could also mean them bringing Henri in & keeping Bruce as general team manager, or replacing our assistant manager with Henri.
    At the moment anything is possible, & I doubt if Bruce will have much say in that [thankfully].

    After reading that article I saw a statement from Xia, basically going on about the business projects possibilities with Eden & Naswiri outside of the villa as well as Villa itself.
    It seems to me that Xia is keen to stay at Villa for that reason, & as has been said, it would rehabilitate his image in China.

  55. IanG- I highlighted Xia’s apparent glee at the possibilities in a post earlier, fair play to him if he has dropped the asking price to maybe resurrect the rest of his empire? I’ve heard they have only paid out some £30m for Villa’s ownership? thats peanuts and he must be getting something else surely. Maybe he will hold his stock in Villa until its worth what he paid out.

    would hate for Bruce to resurrect last seasons team now if given funds to bring in a few, why bring in players to block our own capable lads?

    I’d think Henri could teach Hogan, Kodjia etc a few things , still seems far fetched but Eden has previous for surprise managers

    I suppose we will know shortly how much can be done and what road we are on probably by the end of the week, can’t see them mucking about.

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