So who is Aleksandar Tonev? The Bulgarian, now former, Lech Poznan midfielder is set to complete his move to Aston Villa next week. After starting his career at CSK Sofia, where he picked up winners medals for the Bulgarian cup and super cup, as well as a young player of the year award, he found himself at Poland’s Lech Poznan. Now the Premier league beckons with Paul Lambert’s young lions.
A young, quick, attacking midfielder who’s comfortable with the ball at his feet would add a threat from midfield that was missing from Villa last season. Lambert’s front three were relatively prolific, considering the league position, but a plan B or attacking options from deeper certainly wouldn’t go a miss. Westwood, Delph and Scylla started to gel in the later part of the last campaign and although they became a solid, workman like midfield three, their was a lack of creativity or attacking threat from that area of the park. And definitely a lack of goals.
Tonev, often labelled as a winger, offers a little more than his tag would indicate. He seems equally comfortable coming inside and using his pace through the middle, and he isn’t shy of pulling the trigger, usually from distance, though his goal tally to date has yet to really catch alight. He has potential to offer more than the often one dimensional Albrighton and certainly more drive and application than Stephen Ireland. A possible replacement for the seemingly ‘surplus to requirements’ Brett Holman who also arrived with quiet expectation on his shoulders, but never really cut the mustard for the step up to the Premier League.
So, can the Bulgarian make the transition to the English top flight? To be blunt, the Ekstraklasa and the A group are not quite at the same standard as the Premier League. Enough players, from better leagues, flop when they’re asked to make a step up but Aleksandar does have youth, and more importantly for the Premier League, pace on his side. He also has already cut his teeth in the Europa league and for the Bulgarian national team. A 23 year old with European and international experience might just have a shout.