Axel Tuanzebe’s agent has suggested the Liverpool/Manchester United rivalry contributed to the defender’s lack of game time at Aston Villa.
The Dutchman’s loan spell at the Premier League club was cut short as he was recalled by Man United before being loaned out to Napoli earlier in January.
Tuanzebe has been loaned out to Villa on three separate occasions but will now play at Napoli for the rest of the seasonGetty
He left Villa having made just nine Premier League appearances all season and just two since Steven Gerrard succeeded Dean Smith as Villa boss.
And the player’s brother, Dimitri Tuanzebe, who’s also his agent, suggested a reason the Liverpool legend chose not to play Tuanzebe was due to his parent club being the Reds’ bitter rivals.
“Axel is very excited to begin a new chapter in his football career, playing abroad and for a club with so much history behind it and fans who worship football,” Dimitri told ESPN.
“Axel didn’t decide to move until it became very clear that he isn’t the manager’s first-choice centre-back and the Napoli offer was very tempting.
Tuanzebe played a combined total of eight minutes in his two Premier League matches for Villa under GerrardGetty
“I have a lot of mixed emotions when it comes to Axel’s time at Villa. He is loved by the fans as he contributed highly to the club’s success in the Championship where he was one of the key players that helped Villa return to the Premier League.
“However, following the arrival of Steven Gerrard at Villa Park, it felt as if the rivalry between Man United and Liverpool came to life.
“For the avoidance of doubts, Axel was very open to staying at Villa, he loves the fans, being in Birmingham but he also has a career that he can only build and reach his full potential in an environment where opportunities to play are fair.”
The suggestions are a stunning attack on Gerrard’s integrityGetty
“The move was very easy,” Dimitri added. “Man United was very supportive of the move, made sure that it was in favour of Axel’s career and Napoli did everything within their power to make the deal possible. As Axel’s agent, I made sure that the deal went ahead by working in collaboration with trusted partners in the UK and Italy.
“Man United contacted me directly to notify me of Napoli’s interest, I added them to the list of clubs interested and then assessed all options with the help of my family, trusted partners and Axel.
“After multiple meetings with interested clubs’ sporting directors and managers, we all concluded that Napoli is the best option.
“Axel was persuaded by the clear path into the team, also a success story of players who have enjoyed playing time since they signed for Napoli after a lack of opportunities at their previous clubs.”
As fate would have it, Gerrard’s Villa take on Tuanzebe’s parent club in the FA Cup on Monday night, a match you can listen to live on talkSPORT, kick-off 7:55pm.
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