By Liam Scahill
At the end of the January transfer window of 2017 Aston Villa signed Icelandic international Birkir Bjarnason from FC Basel.
Bjarnason has long carried the nickname of Thor, thanks to his immaculate blonde locks which flowed with vigour during the magical Icelandic rampaging voyage of the 2016 European Championship Finals in France.
Embed code Bjarnason scoring against Portugal.
Thor was one of the most celebrated gods in Norse mythology, he was considered the storm-weather god of sky and thunder and also a fertility god.
It’s uncertain though what Villa boss Steve Bruce wanted the Icelandic version to bring to Villa or where he envisaged playing him.
Many an Aston Villa fan expected grandiose things from Bjarnason following his arrival at B6, to say the claret and blue faithful are disappointed in Bjarnason’s contribution would not be impudent.
Under the tutelage of Bruce, the 29-year-old midfielder has become nothing more than a fringe utility player in a Championship squad often ravaged with injuries.
The Icelandic midfielder has made just two league starts this season, coming off the bench seven times and playing in total only 190 minutes with one goal to his name (he’s also played four cup games and scored one goal).
Upon signing for Villa, Bjarnason said: “I’m delighted to have signed for Aston Villa. It’s a very big club. I am now looking forward to getting out on to the pitch and helping the team.”
In the last twelve months something has gone awry for Bjarnason, as his time on the pitch has been severely limited.
Italian Escape Route
In recent weeks Bjarnason has been linked with a return to Serie A, his representative, Jim Solbakken, claims he has been approached by Serie A clubs who hope to sign him.
According to Italian site Tuttomercato, Solbakken said “Birkir would like to return to Serie A. He was very good in Italy and would like to play again in the Italian league.
Serie A side S.P.A.L. are thought to be in pole position, if reports are to be believed.
Bjarnason previously played in Italy with spells at both Sampdoria and Pescara, before joining Basel where Villa bought him from.
“He is totally focused on Aston Villa,” added his agent. “The club is fighting to get back in the Premier (League), his only thought is to do well with his club’s shirt. We’ll see what happens.”
Bjarnason in a World Cup year finds himself behind the likes of Albert Adomah and Andre Green in the battle for a starting berth on Villa’s left wing.
He needs first team football to make sure he’s ready for Iceland’s historical appearance in Russia in the summer, where he’ll get the chance to play against Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria.
When it came to this January transfer window, Villa’s actions were always going to be limited. Firstly, they have a big enough squad in this division and their present needs are actually few, and then there’s the spectre of the FFP rules.
With Villa uncertain of which division they’ll play in next season, long-term purchases are tricky too. A player would need to be good enough for the Premier League, yet willing to play in the Championship.
Bjarnason perhaps would be good enough to be a squad player in the Premier League despite his unsettled time at Villa so far, so he’s certainly not a right-off just yet.
Bjarnason’s cameo and goal during Villa’s recent 5-0 romp of Bristol City suggested he has a role to play, but when he started against Peterborough, apart from a shot that hit the bar, he had a poor game.
When you look at his lack of impact on a Villa team, you have to question his short-term future against his international needs.
If Villa need to trim their squad to allow room for manoeuvre in the window then the likes of Bjarnason and Ritchie De Laet are top of the list.
Is it time for Bruce and Villa to cut their losses?
Follow Liam on Twitter at @Sir_Scatman