It has been a predictably frustrating summer of waiting at Villa Park, but the bright performances at the World Cup of Dutch defender and Villa's club captain Ron Vlaar have given the Holte Enders something to cheer for.
Vlaar has started all three matches for the Oranje so far in Brazil, and his performances have given Louis van Gaal no reason to drop him. Usually operating at the centre of a three-man defence, Vlaar has been at his no-nonsense best to help his country win their highly competitive group in the tournament.
His strength, reading of the game and composure have made Vlaar one of the standouts from an impressive Dutch team. Superb displays by Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie have stolen the headlines, but Vlaar must be considered among the tournament's best performers thus far.
While Villa fans will be glad for Vlaar's success and happy to seem him performing well, his success in the tournament—as well as his unresolved contract situation—has led to genuine worries over the skipper's future with the club.
A good showing at the World Cup has earned countless players a high-profile transfer over the years and Vlaar's strong play has made him a candidate to join that list. Villa must do everything they can to prevent this from happening and retain Vlaar at all costs.
With Van Gaal set to take over at Old Trafford, it would not be surprising to learn that the Red Devils were interested in Vlaar. The departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic have left United thin at the back and Van Gaal could call on Vlaar to help the rebuilding process.
Additionally, newly promoted QPR have begun probing the possibility of purchasing the Dutch defender. According to The Birmingham Mail's Mat Kendrick, Harry Redknapp is hoping to sign Vlaar to lead QPR's back line alongside former Villan Richard Dunne.
With just a year left on his contract, Vlaar has not yet been offered a new deal by Villa. Randy Lerner's uncertain future as owner has stalled many personnel decisions and will only increase the odds that Vlaar's days in a claret and blue shirt are numbered.
Villa must resist the pressure to sell Vlaar at all costs and do whatever it takes to re-sign their captain. The departure of the skipper would be crippling to Villa for several reasons.
First, Vlaar is both Villa's most experienced and reliable central defender by a wide margin. Martin Laurence of WhoScored.com completed a player focus on Vlaar in January that demonstrates just how vital the Dutchman is.
Also, due to Lerner's current hesitancy to spend on new signings, the departure of Vlaar may leave Villa with a hole they are unable to fill in the transfer window and an unconvincing array of defenders to replace him.
Jores Okore looks to be a very promising player, but the young Dane is short on experience, fresh off of a serious injury and unproven in the Premier League. He would be best served learning from Vlaar as his partner rather than having to stand in for him immediately.
Neither Nathan Baker nor Ciaran Clark have proven that they can be relied upon despite receiving numerous chances. The two products of Villa's academy have been frequent starters over the past two seasons, yet they have failed to significantly improve and continue to make game-changing errors.
Although newly signed Philippe Senderos brings experience, his recent performances leave much to be desired. Senderos has rarely been first choice in his career and his recent, woeful display in the World Cup for Switzerland against France will not inspire confidence among Villa's supporters.
Simply put, letting Vlaar leave without a replacement would be calamitous for Villa. Beginning the season with their current stable of centre-backs, minus Vlaar, could have disastrous results.
Even if Lerner were willing to open his pocketbook in order to replace Vlaar, it would be highly risky to rely upon a new signing versus a proven commodity, especially given Villa's defensive struggles under Paul Lambert.
Furthermore, if Vlaar is not sold over the summer, Villa risk losing their star defender for nothing at the end of the season if he does not sign a new contract.
It may be tempting to cash in on Vlaar when his stock is at his highest, and he will likely fetch a much higher transfer fee than he was signed for. Nonetheless, losing Vlaar could be catastrophic for Villa.
Lerner may be counting down the days until he finds a new owner, but until he does so he must act in the best interests of his team. Re-signing Ron Vlaar must be the club's top priority.
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