Who is Pedro Goncalves? Analysis of touted Villa transfer target

With reports in Portugal suggesting that Aston Villa are preparing an attempt to sign Sporting’s Pedro Goncalves this summer, what would the talented attacking ace add to the side?

According to Record, Villa are set to ‘come with force’ to try and sign him at the end of the season, although there are seemingly significant obstacles standing in the way of a potential deal.

It’s noted that while his current contract runs until 2026 and has an €80m release clause, Sporting boss Ruben Amorim has already made it clear to the club’s hierarchy that he has no desire to lose his influential star.

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In turn, it remains to be seen if our interest can turn into something more concrete and realistic in terms of an agreement being reached, but based on the report above, it certainly sounds as though Goncalves is a serious target for us. It also comes just a day after it was reported by Record, via Sport Witness, that we sent a scout to watch Sporting’s encounter with FC Midtjylland in the Europa League this week.

Perhaps it’s a case of the Portuguese media putting pieces together and trying to come up with news, but those said pieces do create a potentially genuine link and so time will tell if Goncalves is a priority for Unai Emery as he looks to stamp his mark on the Villa squad this summer.

Pedro Goncalves analysis, profile, statistics

After spending time at youth level with Braga and Valencia, Goncalves also had a spell with Wolves between 2017 and 2019, and although he featured for the U21s side, he failed to make the desired breakthrough at senior level.

That led to an initial switch to Famalicao, but it’s at Sporting where ‘Pote’ has taken his game to the next level with 54 goals and 26 assists in 112 appearances for the Portuguese giants.

Albeit a diminutive player at 5ft 7, his talents and attributes are clear as he boasts real technical quality, composure, balance and flair on the ball, a creative spark with a great passing range and an eye for goal.

While he’s accurate on set-pieces and from the penalty spot, he has been a real creative hub for Sporting in open play and has the versatility and tactical flexibility to play out wide or drift more centrally and play through the middle to support the main striker and create problems for the opposition defence.

He scored 23 goals and provided four assists in 32 league appearances in the title-winning 2020/21 campaign, ending the season as the league’s top goalscorer. While adding three more trophies to his collection, he was voted the Primeira Liga’s Best Young Player of the year in back-to-back seasons between 2019 and 2021, and while injuries stunted his progress last year, he’s been back on form so far in this campaign.

Add to that he has represented Portugal at U18, U20 and U21 level while earning two caps at senior level, he has a big future ahead of him still.

In Emery’s favoured 4-4-2 system, or a similar variant, Goncalves would be an excellent fit given his ability to find pockets of space and transition into attack quickly, and while we didn’t address the need for a winger in January – something that Emery was particularly keen on – he would be a solution in that department.

It would add competition and more depth for us alongside the likes of Emiliano Buendia and Philippe Coutinho – provided the latter stays beyond this summer – but with the option of being deployed in a wider role too.

Further, one of the biggest frustrations for the Villa boss in recent weeks has been our inability to control games for 90 minutes. While he was happy to acknowledge the passion and energy that his players showcase, the Spanish tactician wants us to be more patient and composed with our possession and control the tempo while keeping a certain shape and positioning to control the opposition too.

With his technical quality and comfort on the ball, Goncalves would certainly help with that aspect of our performances, and so that could be another important factor that has led to our touted interest in terms of the bigger picture of implementing a clear style of play.

Adding players like Goncalves with the characteristics that he possesses would move us closer to that, while also acquiring a player who has shown he can be decisive in the final third on a consistent basis and is potentially now ready for the next step in his career.

As noted above, there is a sense that although our interest has been reported, there is still a long way to go before the Portuguese international becomes a concrete option for us this summer. However, it’s an exciting possible signing, and one that would certainly improve us and give Emery a crucial new option.

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