By Jonty Banks

8th May, 2023 | 9:59pm

Finn Azaz future at Aston Villa hangs in balance after Plymouth Argyle loan, hinges on future of first-team star

Aston Villa academy graduate Finn Azaz finished off his successful loan spell at Plymouth Argyle with a late flourish as he netted in their final day of the season victory over Port Vale.

The 22-year-old netted the third goal of the League One side’s 3-1 victory on Sunday (7 May), taking his tally for the season to eight goals and nine assists from 34 appearances.

After spending previous loan spells at both Cheltenham Town and Newport County, Azaz has taken his game to a new level this term under the guidance of Steven Schumacher.

The playmaker, who joined Aston Villa in 2021, has been a key cog in the Pilgrims breaking the 100-point barrier and picking up the League One title this season.

However, with his contract expiring at Villa Park this summer and no talks yet to surface about an extension, it remains to be seen whether he will make Unai Emery’s plans next term.

How the Spanish manager looks to utilise Azaz will likely hinge on the future of mercurial talent Philippe Coutinho, who has blown and cold since joining Aston Villa in the winter window of 2022.

Reports from InterLive last month (9 April) claimed that the former Barcelona ace is “already starting to explore” options away from Villa Park, while an offer from Inter Milan would come as no surprise.

If the 30-year-old were to part company with Aston Villa at the end of the season, it would certainly leave the door ajar for the likes of Azaz and fellow loanee Aaron Ramsey to barge their way through.

Azaz plays in similar areas of the pitch to Coutinho, although in a slightly different manner, mainly being fielded in a playmaker role this season and urged to use his physicality to drive through the defensive lines, compared to Coutinho, who usually looks to pick apart opposition defences with his intricate skills and passing.

With his fruitful season at Plymouth Argyle now coming to a close, the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international faces a nervous wait to see if Emery will deem him surplus to requirements or select him for his 2023/24 first-team squad.

It looks like Coutinho’s future will certainly play a major role in deciding Azaz’s fate.

In other Aston Villa news, the Villans have been backed to complete one major deal in the summer after an update from Fabrizio Romano.