Reports in both France and Italy today claim that Aston Villa and Newcastle have made offers to sign AC Milan’s disgruntled former Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini. The 26-year-old has endured a disappointing time in Italy since moving on a free transfer in 2008 as he’s struggled to maintain a first team place and often been forced to play as a full-back. After making just 14 league starts last season and losing his place in the French international squad, the player is expected to move.
Aston Villa have been linked with West Ham’s Scott Parker but cannot agree a fee and Martin O’Neill has now switched his attention to the far cheaper option of Flamini. Both Steve Sidwell and Nigel Reo-Coker are expected to leave Villa Park this summer which leave the Villans lacking numbers in the middle of the park. The fact that Flamini has already proved he has what it takes to be a hit in the Premier League having starred for the Gunners makes him an excellent target. Chris Hughton is also preparing a bid but prefers an initial loan move with funds tight at Newcastle. The Magpies realise they need to add to the squad and Flamini’s excellent attitude and age fits the bill at the club look to cement their top flight status.
The Frenchman has complained of a lack of football and being played out of position at Milan but that is unlikely to be the case at either Newcastle or Aston Villa. The Toon have the likes of Alan Smith, Joey Barton, Danny Guthrie and Kevin Nolan but are looking to add to a relatively small squad.
Flamini has struggled at the San Siro to become a regular in the starting line-up. Last season the combative midfielder was limited to just 14 starts in 25 league appearances. As his stock has fallen at AC Milan his patience has also been wearing thin as his World Cup dreams disappeared. A move back to the Premier League where he excelled is viewed as just what the player needs to break back into Lauren Blanc’s international set-up.
AC Milan reportedly offered cash plus Flamini for Emmanuel Adebayor last summer but Man City’s straight cash offer was enough to tempt Arsene Wenger. The Gunners are thought not to be overly keen on bringing back a former player who left them for nothing only two seasons ago embarrassing the club in the process. However, due to his history in the red of Arsenal, both Chris Hughton and Martin O’Neill see the all action midfielder as the perfect signing to fill the centre of the park. The Frenchman’s tenacity and energy would be a huge boost for both Aston Villa and Newcastle this season.
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Flamini didn’t enjoy the best of debut seasons in 2008/09 as Milan failed to challenge rivals Inter for the Serie A title, they were also surprisingly knocked out in the Uefa Cup 3rd round by eventual finalists Werder Bremen. The Frenchman played in 29 league games but only starting 22 with a number of those appearances coming at full-back. He played a full 90 minutes in a Serie A match on only 16 occasions with most of those coming in defence. This led to speculation that he would be sold last summer after the arrival of new coach Leonardo who was expected to bring in his own personnel. However, Flamini remained but has failed to nail down a first team place which seriously hampered his chances to make the French World Cup squad. A move back to England to either St James’ Park or Villa Park could be the kick-start the player’s career needs after two disappointing seasons in Serie A.
The move to Milan was expected to secure Flamini’s position in the French national squad but instead he has only featured once since and that was back in September 2008 soon after his arrival in Italy. A move back to England may earn the player more opportunity to break back into the national set-up with a permanent midfield role and a number of Premier League stars in the French set-up. There’s no doubt the player’s stock has fallen considerably and Flamini has come to realize his all-action style is more suited to the fast pace of the Premier League rather than Serie A. The player was thought to favour a move back to London but with little interest from the capital he is sure to consider Aston Villa or Newcastle with the Villans firm favourites.
Flamini’s standing at Arsenal was very much as a bit-part player until his final season with the club. He made a total of 102 league appearances but until the 2007/08 season, he’d only started 37 games. However, in his final season he started all 30 of his league appearances as he established himself alongside Cesc Fabregas as the first choice central midfield pairing. He managed to displace the ever dependable Gilberto Silva in the side which was no mean feat. The French star finally got the consistent chance to prove his aggressive; all-action style was the perfect foil for enabling his Spanish partner to display his more offensive skills higher up the park. However, Flamini’s new found confidence and improved displays led to suitors across Europe as the player’s contract ran down.
Despite an offer of a new contract at Arsenal, Flamini decided to join Milan in the summer of 2008 in a deal worth a reported 5.6m euros a season over a 4-year contract. However, despite joining Milan to enhance his midfield reputation, Flamini soon found himself in a position similar to that at Arsenal. In terms of being regarded as a utility man at the club. However, injuries allowed the player to break back into the side at right-back but the Frenchman is now determined that this won’t be the case again in 2010 so is likely to leave whether on loan or in a permanent deal. Flamini is likely to be first choice at either Newcastle or Aston Villa and that more than anything is what the player wants at the present time. He would not be much of a risk for either club as he is highly experienced of Premier League football and his hungry to prove himself again.
The fee for the player is likely to be £5m as he is not considered one of AC’s main assets as they look to rebuild what is an ageing side with a likely influx of younger talent. This should be within both Newcastle and Aston Villa’s budget and with the player keen to return to England, a move is on the cards.
Would Newcastle or Aston Villa fans welcome the tenacious midfielder? Do you think this would be an ideal signing or a waste of money? Let’s hear your views.