Aston Villa move into pole position in race to sign Ajani Burchall
Aston Villa have reportedly moved ahead of their English Premier League rivals and into pole position in the pursuit of Bermudian winger Ajani Burchall.
The 16-year-old made history when he became the third-youngest player to represent Bournemouth; coming off the bench against Huddersfield Town, to make his debut in the Sky Bet Championship in December.
While that remains his only first-team appearance, having been thrust into the limelight at such an early age; a number of top-flight clubs were reportedly following his progress with the likes of Arsenal, Leeds United, West Ham United, Crystal Palace and Villa all keeping tabs on the winger.
That interest intensified in February after the forward turned down a scholarship offer from Bournemouth, paving the way for a free transfer away from the club.
Unlike the previous campaign, Villa are all but certain of playing Premier League football again next season, with Dean Smith’s side sitting comfortably in eleventh place.
While the transfer window does not open until this summer, Smith and his backroom staff have reportedly already started planning the club’s recruitment for next season
With Britain no longer part of the European Union after Brexit and overseas transfers now more complicated to complete, English clubs, including Villa, are reportedly focusing their attention on “home-grown” talent, with local media placing the Midlands-based outfit out in front in the race for Burchall’s signature.
While Smith has not confirmed the club’s interest in the Bermudian schoolboy, he did reveal a focus on home-grown eligible players, with Burchall falling into the category with Bermuda being a British Overseas Territory.
"We want a British feel about us but that’s not to say we will turn our noses up at good deals abroad," said Smith, speaking to the Birmingham Mail this month.
"We expect player recruitment to be harder because of Brexit, so young, British talent is what we’re looking for.
"I believe that can improve us and we believe we can improve those players as well.
"We can improve them, their value. The fact that they can see a clear pathway for them now with England will help, too."