Axel Tuanzebe’s agent has accused Steven Gerrard of letting Liverpool’s bitter rivalry with Manchester United get in the way of his selection policy at Aston Villa following the defender’s recall.
Tuanzebe’s temporary spell at Villa Park was cut short by Man Utd earlier this month and the 24-year-old has subsequently gone back out on loan, joining Italian club Napoli until the end of the campaign.
The former England U21 international was a regular under Dean Smith earlier this season, racking up 497 Premier League minutes under the now Norwich boss, but following the arrival of Gerrard in November, he was afforded only eight minutes of action before his loan spell was terminated.
Tuanzebe has strong ties to Villa Park having initially helped the club seal promotion from the Championship in 2018/19 under Smith, before returning at the start of this season to help the club steady the ship following the sale of Jack Grealish to Manchester City.
However, he fell massively down the pecking order following Gerrard’s appointment, with his agent and brother, Dimitri Tuanzebe, believing Smith’s successor let his Liverpool bias get in the way of giving his client a fair crack at the whip.
“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,” Dimitri Tuanzebe told ESPN.
“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.”
Despite how the season has unravelled for Tuanzebe, his representative says the Man Utd loanee is now relishing the chance to play abroad and test himself in a division renowned for its world-class defensive reputation.
He added: “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.”