After struggling to cope with the attacking brilliance of the Premier League and finishing rock-bottom of the division at the end of the 2015/16 season, Aston Villa moved into the transfer market to improve a defensive unit which conceded 76 goals in the top-flight – an average of 2 per game.
Shortly after they concluded the signing of James Chester from West Brom, the Villans raided another Midlands rival as they completed the signing of Ritchie De Laet from Leicester City on 23rd August 2016.
The Villa supporters were delighted to see a new right-back arrive at the club to challenge Alan Hutton for a starting berth, and they took to Twitter to praise Tony Xia on what they anticipated to be a bargain acquisition.
— Paul Munnelly (@Munners_) August 23, 2016
Very good signing at that price! Poor owl Alan Hutton!!
— Ross Campbell (@thedhal) August 23, 2016
— Matt (@Mattyboy_567) August 23, 2016
great signing well done
— Steven Rafferty (@raffsteveraff) August 23, 2016
@Dun_Deal_ @Dr_TonyXia good signing – knows the league and got 2 medals last year and should be confident for that! UTV
— Jonny Nickless (@jonny_nickless) August 23, 2016
However, De Laet’s career at Villa Park hasn’t quite panned out how the majority of supporters predicted it to. The 2-cap Belgium international started the first 3 games of the season immediately following his arrival before he suffered a horrendous knee injury which ruled him out for the rest of the season.
It was a cruel blow for De Laet so early into his Villa career and he’s never quite recovered since picking up that injury. He returned in time for the 2017/18 season but he struggled to break into the regular matchday squad, never mind the starting eleven.
Steve Bruce handed De Laet just 1 Championship start before he eventually moved to Royal Antwerp in January on a loan deal which saw him return to first-team football in the Jupiler Pro League.
But despite building up some match fitness on loan last season, Bruce is yet to select him in the first-team squad for a single Championship fixture – a fact which suggests he is finished at Villa Park.
The initial hype which surrounded De Laet’s arrival was certainly justified at the time and his failure to live up to expectation has largely arrived due to his huge injury blow so early into his Villa career, but there’s no doubt the supporters will be shocked when they look back at how highly he was regarded upon his arrival.
Villa fans – does de Laet deserve another chance? Let us know below!