Aston Villa “missed a trick” in not moving for Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham, claims Paul Merson, with Dean Smith told the £28 million ($36m) invested in Ollie Watkins could have been better used elsewhere.
Villa know all about Abraham’s qualities having seen him score 26 goals during a promotion-winning Championship campaign in 2018-19.
The 22-year-old returned to Stamford Bridge on the back of those efforts and forced his way into Frank Lampard’s plans – hitting the target 18 times last season.
He did, however, slip behind Olivier Giroud in the pecking order prior to Chelsea splashing out £47.5m ($59m) on Timo Werner.
It has been suggested that Abraham could be back on the market, and Merson believes the England international – who is now proven at the highest level – should have been snapped up by Dean Smith ahead of a Premier League rookie in the form of ex-Brentford star Watkins.
The former Villans midfielder told the Daily Star: “Aston Villa have missed a trick. If they had waited before spending all that money on Ollie Watkins, they could have got Tammy Abraham.
“Spending £28m for a player who has never kicked a ball in the Premier League is a lot of money. It’s a gamble.
“He scored a lot of goals last season but I like to see what players do when the pressure’s on, and at the back end of the season, I didn’t see too much.
“If they had waited until after Timo Werner had made his debut for Chelsea, they probably could have got Abraham for free for the season.
“I don’t see how Tammy Abraham plays now for Chelsea. Timo Werner has got that position sewn up. And he's played for Villa before. He ticks the boxes.
“Villa have done some good business. They’ve done well to keep Jack Grealish. Fair play to him for signing his contract.
“And Emiliano Martinez is a great signing because £20m for a keeper this day and age is cheap and he was outstanding for Arsenal last season.
“Villa are a big club. People don’t realise how big. But I still think they are playing for 17th, and if they finish there, they have pulled up trees. Anything else is a bonus.”
Villa, who fended off relegation on the final day of last season, will open their 2020-21 Premier League campaign on Monday when they play host to Sheffield United – with Watkins having already opened his goal account for the club in a Carabao Cup win over Burton Albion.