With Chelsea rumoured to have been interested in him six months earlier, Jores Okore’s capture was seen as a quite a coup by Aston Villa in the summer of 2013.
Unfortunately for the young Danish international, his first 18 months in the Midlands quickly became a write off thanks to a serious knee injury sustained only four matches into his Villa career.
Since those dark days, though, the former Nordsjaelland defender has worked his way back into the first-team fold, remaining a near-constant presence in the Villa rearguard since late November.
This progress hasn’t slipped the attentions of transfer-hungry Serie A giants Inter Milan, whose manager Roberto Mancini is reportedly keen to pluck the 22-year-old from Villa Park in the next window.
While Okore is far from a polished diamond in the centre of defence, he certainly has enough raw materials to become one on the evidence so far, making up for a lack of height with plenty of strength and speed across the turf.
The way Ron Vlaar’s season has panned out there will be plenty of Villa fans wishing the club had cashed in on all the post-World Cup hysteria last summer.
Having featured just 14 times due to injury and suspensions in a season where he turned 30, Vlaar’s Villa best may be in the past, while Philippe Senderos is in a similar boat.
The Swiss international turned 30 in the same month as Vlaar and hasn’t appeared since November, before suffering a recurrence of the same calf injury ahead of an earmarked March comeback.
To his credit, academy product Ciaran Clark, now 25, has grabbed his opportunities alongside Okore with both hands, while Nathan Baker has toiled with injury after showing promise early in the season and hasn’t been seen since January.
If anything, Okore and Clark have now established themselves as a potential partnership in which Tim Sherwood can build around next season, while Vlaar or Senderos look prime targets for selling on instead.
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