The Player Aston Villa Were Scouting That Bizarrely Led to Signing Jhon Durán

How Jhon Durán was Signed

In the last January transfer window, Aston Villa got their $18 million (plus $4m add-ons) deal for striker Jhon Durán over the line, a player they had been monitoring and in talks with for several months. Villa’s initial interest in Duran though, came about by chance, something of a happy accident.

Despite Villa’s scouting department getting the usual notifications on Duran – as all football team’s scouting departments get, once young players start producing statistical data from game time – he wasn’t initially on the club’s radar. Far from it, Villa had been actually scouting a goalkeeper in the MLS, when they eyeballed Duran playing in the same match.

A few weeks back, MOMS got to have a chat with Aston Villa Sporting Director Johan Lange at Bodymoor Heath, when he disclosed to the Villa Fan Consultation Group, that Villa had actually been at a Chicago Fire game watching USMNT youth goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina.

Slonina eventually ended up signing for Chelsea for a fee reported to be $10m rising to $15m (with a sell-on clause too). But with Emi Martinez fast cementing his Villa legacy, ultimately Lange reasoned that potentially a big outlay on a young keeper might not be the best use of Villa’s coffers, when he would struggle for game time.

Watching Slonina hadn’t been in vain though, as Villa really liked what they saw in Chicago Fire’s other intriguing young asset, the then 18-year-old Columbian striker, Jhon Durán. After going on to watch him three times in person, the decision to get ahead of the pack and attempt to sign him was made.

Another Duran Video

As part of courting the Columbia striker, Duran’s father had actually been invited over to Birmingham to chat to the club in November. Part of his introduction to the club was a video presentation, Villa had prepared for Duran’s dad to see. With Duran also born in Medellín, the same city as Juan Pablo Angel was, the video proposed a similar ‘from Medellin to the Premier League’ journey to that of the former Villa striker and Columbian international.

Another big plus to getting the deal done was the arrival of Unai Emery to Villa, at the start of November. Emery could reinsure Duran and his family in their native Spanish, that Villa was the kind of environment that would help him grow both as a player and a person.

No doubt, Duran’s father was impressed, as his mother was, when, a couple of month’s later, she was present at Villa Park to shed a tear at Villa’s official welcome video with an appearance of Juan Pablo Angel on the big screen of Villa Park to welcome the player.

Early Days for Duran

As MOMS commented to Lange, it’s testament to how Villa’s oversea’s player welfare has progressed, since ironically it was Angel that provided the club with a stiff learning curve, when it came to the Columbian’s struggles settling in, compounded by a sick child and a homesick wife.

As Lange stressed, you have to remember that Duran is younger than Louie Barry, and still very much a pup, despite his physical appearance. So Villa offering a nurturing environment was key for the player and his family.

Still, the moral of the Duran story is keeping an open mind when you’re scouting for players. As one day you can be scouting a goalkeeper, but after watching him, the next day, you’re signing a striker.


For more on meeting Lange & Emery’s coaching staff listen to ep. 231 of the podcast

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