Juan Pablo Angel believes Aston Villa’s Sky Bet Championship play-off final date offers the chance of his former club becoming relevant again on the football stage.
Villa meet midlands rivals Derby on Monday in a game estimated to be worth at least £170million to the winning club.
The victors will soon enjoy the riches that come with being a Premier League club, and former Colombia striker Angel hopes Villa end what he sees as their time in obscurity after three seasons in the Championship.
“The biggest challenge for Villa is not only to go back to the Premier League, but to start being relevant again in the sport,” said Angel, who became their record signing when joining from Argentinian club River Plate in a £9.5million deal in January 2001.
“People who understand the history of the club appreciate what they’ve got.
“But in order to keep up to date, you’ve got to keep winning and be relevant in the modern game.
“It is very easy to become irrelevant quickly and for people to forget about you. You have to be in the Premier League and make noise when you are there.
“They have to create a project that attracts younger players from around the world and play the type of football that everybody wants to watch – the DNA of Aston Villa’s history.”
Dean Smith’s side only forced their way into the play-offs with a perfectly-timed club-record run of 10 successive wins in March and April.
Star man Jack Grealish was instrumental in that run after missing three months through injury, and Villa eventually finished fifth before beating West Brom on penalties in the play-off semi-final.
But Angel, who scored 62 goals in 205 games in six years at Villa, admits that the 23-year-old midfielder is likely to move on this summer should Derby prevail at Wembley.
“Villa will obviously give themselves a better chance of keeping him by being in the Premier League,” Angel said.
“You have to give the kid a chance to play at the top level, if not it’s going to be very difficult to keep him.
“You have to see if the players are capable of playing at that next level, but in order to survive in the Premier League the squad has to have strength in depth.
“You need a budget that gives you a real chance to stay there for the long term.”
Angel now divides his time between his native Colombia and the United States, where he works as a sporting consultant for MLS team Los Angeles FC.
The 43-year-old has studied for his UEFA A licence through the Football Association of Wales and attended the FAW National Coaches Conferences in Newport this weekend.
“It’s been a very interesting process to understand and educate myself for the next stage of my career,” Angel told Press Association Sport.
“The Welsh FA have been phenomenal with me. The programme has been customised to meet my needs and it has been great being back in the UK.
“I went back to Villa a couple of months ago for the first time in 12 years to see the team play Blackburn.
“I didn’t think people would remember me. But I was extremely honoured to have great recognition from the supporters.
“The club means so much to so many people and I just hope now they get back to the Premier League, which is where they belong.”
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