The conclusion of the 2014 World Cup has allowed for the summer transfer season to kick into high gear. Fans have now turned their full attention to the transfer market and its countless rumours.
Two such rumours concern Aston Villa's struggling midfield. One hints at the potentially exciting arrival of one World Cup star, while the other concerns the possibly nauseating departure of one of Villa's key players.
Fresh off a fine display for an otherwise disappointing South Korean team in Brazil, Ki Sung-Yueng has been linked with a possible move to the West Midlands from Swansea City, per Matt Kendrick of the Birmingham Mail.
Ki was not seemingly preferred by Swansea's former manager, Michael Laudrup, and consequently spent last season on loan to Sunderland, where he was one of the Black Cats' most consistent performers.
With Garry Monk now in charge of the Welsh team, Ki's future at Swansea is uncertain. Although a departure still seems likely, a statement from Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins indicates that the club may yet seek to re-sign the Korean midfielder.
We want him to come back after his break and sit down with Garry Monk for a chat. Garry has spoken to him already, but it’s important that they have another chat and we will decide on where we go after that. Ideally, we would like to tie Ki up on a long-term contract.
If Swansea do manage to hold on to Ki, Villa fans will be bitterly disappointed. Currently restricted by owner Randy Lerner's unwillingness to spend, Paul Lambert's summer signings so far have been limited to veteran players signed for free or small transfer fees.
Adding Ki will not solve all of Villa's midfield problems, but it is a definite step in the right direction. Villa have a need for both an out-and-out playmaker to create for others as well as a pure defensive midfielder to make crunching tackles and guard the back line.
Ki does not outright fill either position, but he is relatively young (25), very versatile and has skills that suit both roles. He is physically stronger and more combative than any of Villa's current midfielders yet is also a calming influence on the ball, capable of playing key passes from deep.
Although Villa would ideally sign a pair of midfielders with more focused skill sets, Ki would be a substantial upgrade over Karim El Ahmadi in Villa's three-man midfield and be a welcome signing, especially given Villa's current financial situation.
The arrival of Ki will be far less successful, however, if Villa's current star in midfield, Fabian Delph, is allowed to leave this summer with Ki replacing him rather than slotting in alongside him and the consistent Ashley Westwood.
Delph was undoubtedly Villa's best player last season. Injuries stalled Delph's first three seasons in Birmingham, but the Englishman finally began to look the part in Lambert's first season in charge at Villa Park.
His play during the 2013-14 season saw Delph realize the sterling potential that caused Villa to sign him for a hefty fee from Leeds in 2009. As Villa's spark plug from midfield, Delph's rambunctious runs, tenacious tackling and endless energy were at the heart of many of Villa's best moments.
Worryingly, however, Delph has just a year remaining on his contract and has not yet agreed to terms on a new deal. Sam Allardyce and West Ham have positioned themselves to make the most of the situation by reportedly bidding £5 million for the midfield dynamo, according to Dave Kidd of the Mirror.
Villa must not allow the potential signing of Ki to convince them that Delph is surplus to requirements and allow him to depart, especially for such a relatively small fee.
Letting the club's player of the year (as voted by the fans) from last year leave simply because he will be out of contract soon and a rival club has come calling would demoralize the fans, greatly weaken Villa on the pitch and further diminish Villa's reputation as one of the Premier League's stalwarts.
As appealing as signing Ki would be, the excitement of the Korean's arrival would be almost entirely extinguished if Delph were to be sold. Ki has the potential to have a successful career at Villa Park and is an exciting transfer target, but retaining Delph's services must be an even greater priority.
A midfield trio of Ki, Delph and Westwood has genuine potential to worry opposing teams. Lambert and Lerner should endeavor to make the possibility a reality by both recruiting Ki and re-signing Delph.