By Jonty Banks

9th May, 2023 | 12:10pm

Joao Palhinha is clear upgrade on Boubacar Kamara in key area as £60million Aston Villa transfer news emerges

Joao Palhinha has enjoyed a breakout season since signing for Fulham last summer and the midfielder is now firmly on the radar of Aston Villa ahead of the transfer window.

The Portuguese International has moved from strength to strength since sealing his £20million switch from Sporting Lisbon, making 32 Premier League appearances and helping the Cottagers towards a likely-looking top-ten finish in the Premier League.

Despite only arriving at Craven Cottage last year, Football Insider have reported that Villa are closely monitoring the 27-year-old and would be willing to match the £60million price tag slapped on his services.

If Villa are to smash their record transfer fee though they will have to fight off the likes of Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Bayern Munich, who are all keeping a close eye on the defensive midfielder.

Although Unai Emery already has Boubacar Kamara, Douglas Luiz and Leander Dendoncker at his disposal in the middle of the park, there is next to no depth beyond this trio.

In Kamara’s injury absence over the last month, Emery has looked short of options, either having to field the former Wolves midfielder or John McGinn in the heart of midfield.

Although the returning Frenchman has been a standout player for Aston Villa this term, Palhinha looks to possess more bite in the midfield in comparison to Kamara’s passing-orientated game.

According to WhoScored, the Fulham ace has recorded an average of 4.3 tackles per game – a stat that puts him in the 99th percentile of midfielders in the top five European leagues over the last year [FBREF] – compared to Kamara’s 2.3 tackles per outing.

Palhinha has also recorded more interceptions per game than Kamara (1.3 v 0.8) and a higher number of clearances (1.8 v 1.1).

The Opta-powered stats from FBREF highlight that the former Sporting Lisbon midfielder is one of the best defensive midfielders in European football, sitting in the top 10% for both clearances and aerial duels won (2.08 per 90) and the top 40% for blocks (1.39 per 90).

A major cause for concern in the defeat against Wolves last weekend was McGinn and Luiz’s inability to stop runners dribbling through the lines on the counter-attack, with the Scot being dribbled past on four separate occasions. [Sofascore]

Although Kamara is by no means a slouch in these defensive departments, sitting in the 81st percentile for dribblers tackled (1.23 per 90), it is clear that Palhinha could add a much-needed bite and mean streak to Emery’s side.

The Fulham midfielder has recorded almost double the Frenchman’s tally of dribblers tackled (2.11 per 90) and currently sits in the top 1% of his counterparts across the European game in this statistical area.

Although Villa’s current midfield duo are by no means underperforming this season, Palhinha could add an extra physical dimension if signed.

On the evidence of his stellar season with Fulham, the Portuguese international is a player Aston Villa should go all guns blazing to sign this summer.

In other Aston Villa news, the club have expressed an interest in signing one record-breaking striker, but they are likely to face some stiff competition for his services.