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Who are Aston Villa-bound duo Iling-Junior and Barrenechea?

Who are Aston Villa-bound duo Iling-Junior and Barrenechea?
© Reuters
Looking into one of the more intriguing transfers in the summer window so far, Sports Mole probes the swap deal sending Douglas Luiz from Aston Villa to Juventus.

Set to ship out one of their most influential performers during last season's surge into the Premier League's top four, Aston Villa have hit the headlines for conducting a curious swap deal this summer.

Douglas Luiz has been chosen by new Juventus coach Thiago Motta as the man to make the Bianconeri's midfield tick in the years ahead, and under pressure to balance the books, Villa have reluctantly agreed to part ways with the Brazil international.

Rather than receiving a significant fee, a more intriguing transfer deal has been set up - one that will satisfy both managers and accounting teams alike.

After Weston McKennie declined to leave Turin, it seems Juve are set to send Samuel Iling-Junior and Enzo Barrenechea - valued at £17m and £15m respectively - to Birmingham, so what can be expected of the two prospective new-boys in claret and blue?

Samuel Iling-Junior: from Chelsea's academy to rising-star status in Serie A

Atalanta's Ederson in action with Juventus' Samuel Iling-Junior on May 15, 2024© Reuters

Born in London, Iling-Junior signed up to the Chelsea academy at the tender age of eight, spending nine years there before following an increasingly popular route for young English talents - travelling abroad in search of regular football.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, he accepted a three-year deal with Juventus, taking a bold step into a new culture by initially joining the Bianconeri's next-gen section.

Juve's Under-23s play in Serie C, so Iling-Junior was soon tested against experienced players, and he gradually improved his integration by learning Italian.

Having impressed at third-tier level, he was called up to the senior squad by then-boss Max Allegri, and after a series of substitute appearances made his first start in January 2023, versus Monza in the Coppa Italia.

England Under-21s' Samuel Iling-Junior celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates on March 26, 2024© Reuters

Later that year, Iling-Junior stepped up from England's Under-20s to make his Under-21 debut in a European Championship qualifier, and throughout last season was often selected for Serie A duty.

Primarily a winger, able to play either on the left or right, the 20-year-old proved a versatile member of Juve's squad, but he rarely won his battle with Filip Kostic and Andrea Cambiaso to start at wing-back in Allegri's preferred 3-5-2 formation.

Nonetheless, in January, Iling-Junior scored his first and only goal of the 2023-24 campaign away to Salernitana, and he ultimately featured 27 times - albeit mostly from the bench.

His dribbling and running abilities drew acclaim from many observers, and a knack for squeezing past opponents even when restricted to tight spaces will certainly aid hopes of starting regularly upon his return to England.

Varying his game by alternately driving at full-backs and whipping in low early crosses, a player possessing substantial lung-power and intensity could be tailor-made for Unai Emery's vision of Champions League-bound Aston Villa.

Enzo Barrenechea: thriving on loan at Frosinone

Arsenal's Martin Odegaard in action with Juventus' Enzo Barrenechea on December 17, 2022© Reuters

By leaving Newell's Old Boys for Swiss Super League club Sion in the summer of 2019, aged only 18, Barrenechea proved willing to test himself in Europe before being offered an opportunity in his native Argentina.

Having made just a handful of appearances for the reserve team, the combative midfielder joined Juventus Under-23s soon after Iling-Junior's arrival, making his debut in October 2020. However, such progress was then halted by the bitter blow of an ACL injury, which kept him out of action until early 2022.

Barrenechea therefore had to wait until midway through the 2022-23 season to make his bow for Juve's first team, as a late substitute in a Champions League game against Paris Saint-Germain.

Soon moved to the senior squad on a permanent basis, he made his league debut in the Derby della Mole versus Torino, but amid strong competition for places, the tough-tackling all-rounder was farmed out on loan to promoted Frosinone.

The 23-year-old went on to make himself a fixture in the Canarini's engine room, having been sent south alongside fellow Argentinian Matias Soule, and both proved themselves indispensable to head coach Eusebio Di Francesco.

Racking up 36 appearances in Serie A, Barrenechea played a major part in Frosinone's superb start to the season, but a springtime collapse ultimately saw them suffer relegation.

Nevertheless, despite his inexperience, he finished inside the top 10 for passes played by midfielders in Italy's top flight, also winning the eighth-most tackles and recovering possession 231 times - ranking third in the latter metric.

While a transition period will surely be needed, Barrenechea certainly seems to have the tools to succeed Luiz at Villa Park.

Why is this deal being done?

Aston Villa's Douglas Luiz pictured after the match on May 2, 2024© Reuters

According to reports from Sky Italia, Aston Villa will not only sign Barrenechea and Iling-Junior, they should also pocket around £18.5m for the release of Douglas Luiz, who is currently on international duty with Brazil at the Copa America.

While there are clear sporting benefits for either side, the deal is also a financial transaction that will help both balance their accounting requirements, as they are involved in UEFA competition next season and have to comply with FFP (Financial Fair Play) regulations.

Villa must also adhere to the Premier League's PSR (Profitability and Sustainability Rules), while wrapping up the switch before July would help Juventus record plusvalenza (capital gains) of an estimated £30m.

The Bianconeri board had to resign en masse after previous dealings were found to have broken the rules, resulting in a ban from European competition last year, but the current management believe they are now on much firmer ground.

After McKennie declined to be part of the swap, both clubs hashed out a Plan B - Barrenechea being offered as Soule was considered too valuable - and Juve will also retain a 10 percent sell-on fee for two players who have reportedly agreed long-term contracts in England.

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Arsenal's Martin Odegaard in action with Juventus' Enzo Barrenechea on December 17, 2022
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