It’s dragged on for days now, and at times it seemed that – just like the Gueida Fofana deal – it was destined to collapse, but to the relief of many Aston Villa today confirmed the signing of Cameroonian international midfielder Jean Makoun from Lyon for a fee of around £6,000,000. As Villa’s first cash signing – discounting the Milner for Ireland swap deal – for a year and a half, and with the side languishing in the relegation zone, there are plenty of fans who are just pleased that at last somebody has been brought in.
But this does not do justice to Makoun. Transferred for a fee of €14 million from Lille to Lyon during the summer of 2008, Makoun was considered to be one of the finest examples of a box-to-box midfielder in the world at the time, equally as adept in the tackle as he was going forwards. Though his career at Lyon has stalled in recent months, Makoun still represented Les Gones on 76 occasions, scoring 8 times, including the winner over Real Madrid in the Champions League knockout round a year ago.
Makoun is a player of international pedigree too, and has represented Cameroon at four consecutive African Cup of Nations tournaments, amassing 54 caps for his country since being handed his debut back in 2003. At 27 years of age, Makoun is entering the peak of his playing days, and with his Champions League experience and ability on the ball he should add plenty to the Villa squad.
Frequently compared to Michael Essien for his roaming and powerful midfield displays, Makoun is a player Houllier has admired for years, and previously tried to sign during his own spell as manager of Olympique Lyonnais. Having been linked with Arsenal this season, his move to a Villa side struggling in the Premier League represents something of a coup for the Midlands team, and should reflect well on Houllier’s ability to attract big name signings.
The move perhaps represents worse news for Nigel Reo-Coker, who seems the most likely competition to Makoun for a place in the first team. With their reasonably similar playing style, and with Reo-Coker’s contract up in the summer, the arrival of Makoun could spell the end for the English midfielder, who was signed from West Ham for a fee of £8,500,000 by previous manager Martin O’Neill.
With the acquisition of a work permit, considered to be a formality, still standing between Makoun and the deal being finalised it could be up to a fortnight before he sees any action. But of Makoun Houllier has said; ‘Jean is a player who can play in front of the defence as a sitter and a defensive midfielder or as a box-to-box midfielder. He has several assets about his game. He is a nice guy too. I think he will settle well in the dressing room’. As Villa go through a period of significant player unrest, and with a midfield that has been patched up with several academy youngsters, this seems a smart transfer by Houllier, and if he can find two or three more players to compliment the new arrival, there’s every chance Villa could dig themselves out of the hole they’ve fallen into.