Unbeaten Aston Villa have been reported to be interested in taking Sigurdsson back to England. Anyone unfamiliar with Sigurdsson’s exploits in the Championship need only mention his name to a Reading FC supporter (or go on YouTube and look him up). Since his very early days at Reading, Gylfi Sigurdsson has come with an exciting reputation. The promise he showed in the academy was first utilised with loan spells to Shrewsbury Town and Crewe Alexandra. Under managers Brendan Rodgers and then Brian McDermott, he was afforded the freedom in midfield to express himself, and he lit up the Championship with a seemingly endless succession of spectacular goals. It was then in the 2009-10 season that he really made his mark in English football. With Reading, he scored a superb 16 goals in 38 league games from midfield, as well as making 9 assists, making him the outright winner of the club’s Player of the Season award. This prompted deep-pocketed German side TSG 1899 Hoffenheim to take him to the Rhein-Neckar-Arena for a fee of £6.5 million on deadline day in August 2010.
Much like his relationship with the Madejski faithful, Sigurdsson soon endeared himself to the Hoffenheim fans almost immediately. He was given his debut by Ralf Rangnick on September 10th 2010 and scored his first goal in his very next game. He gave the fans instant proof of his penchant for scoring not just frequently but in also in spectacular fashion, converting with two fantastic free-kicks against Kaiserslautern and Mainz, both of which came in his first month at the club. He also scored important goals, including a last-minute winner away at Nürnberg in the penultimate game of last season, which helped the club to an 11th placed finish. In his first season in Germany he did actually struggle somewhat with form and fitness, compared to the high standards he’d set for himself at the Madejski. Yet he still finished his debut season with 15 goals and 6 assist in 43 games in all competitions, and another Player of the Season award.
He constantly demands the ball, always gets in the box and possesses the technique to score from distance, something he’s quickly made a habit of in his young career.
Since gaining promotion to the Bundesliga in 2008, after an astonishing ascent to the top flight (they were in the sixth tier of German football as recently as 2003), Hoffenheim teams have played an attractive and entertaining brand of football, being both free-scoring but also leaky in defence. Their supporters like to see maverick, talented attacking players at their club, and so Hoffenheim has been a good fit for Sigurdsson. He was signed after TSG sold Brazilian star midfielder Carlos Eduardo to Rubin Kazan for €20 million at the beginning of August 2010, and he would have undoubtedly proven a more effective replacement for Eduardo, but for the niggling injuries he suffered last season. That he came of footballing age in English football’s second and third tiers have stood Sigurdsson in good stead for his career in Germany. The physically draining encounters he experienced in away games in League One and the Championship have facilitated a smooth transition to the pacey, competitive style of football he now faces on a weekly basis. He suffered a knee injury in pre-season this summer, causing him to miss the start of the campaign. Now, back to full fitness and with his first international goal against Portugal last week behind him, Sigurdsson will be looking to rediscover the form he showed in his final season with Reading.
As for his personal style, there is something of a Frank Lampard in him. He constantly demands the ball, always gets in the box and possesses the technique to score from distance, something he’s quickly made a habit of in his young career. He’s a confident player, still young and relatively inexperienced. But he would definitely bring something new to the Aston Villa midfield. The defensive qualities of Fabian Delph and Stiliyan Petrov would provide the perfect licence for him to play his natural, free role behind the striker. And his goalscoring reputation would certainly excite Villa supporters who hark back to those long-range belters that Thomas Hitzlsperger used to produce with unusual frequency.
He does still have nearly three years to run on his contract, and Hoffenheim have recently been tying down their young first team regulars to extended deals, such as defender and captain Andreas Beck this week. Having just turned 22, it’s doubtful that manager Stanislawski would want to let Sigurdsson go. Yet the club does have other midfield talents, most notably 20-year-old Brazilian Roberto Firmino, who plays in much the same position as Sigurdsson and has already scored four league goals in eight games so far this term. Sigurdsson has maintained he is happy in Germany. But if the right offer came along, and considering the relatively modest sum Hoffenheim paid for Sigurdsson, there may yet be some interest in letting him join a big club like Villa, in a country he knows well.
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