(Reuters) - Newly promoted Aston Villa continued their close season spending spree by signing defender Bjorn Engels from French side Stade Reims for an undisclosed fee, the Premier League club said.
British media said Villa had paid Reims 7 million pounds ($8.69 million) for the 24-year-old, taking their spending to nearly 100 million pounds following their promotion from the Championship after beating Derby County in the playoff final.
“Bjorn is a player that I’ve been watching for the past 18 months. We’re very happy to have secured his services and look forward to working with him,” Villa boss Dean Smith told the club’s website.
Engels follows fellow centre backs Ezri Konsa, Tyrone Mings and Kortney Hause into the club, with Villa also signing winger Anwar El Ghazi, left back Matt Targett, midfielder Jota and striker Wesley to boost their squad.
Villa had narrowly missed out on a return to the Premier League at the end of the 2017-18 season after losing 1-0 to Fulham in the playoff final, following which their financial troubles came to light.
They had unpaid tax issues before reaching an agreement with authorities last year and then received “significant” fresh investment from co-owners Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens.
Fulham, meanwhile, were relegated from the Premier League last season after becoming the first promoted club to spend over 100 million pounds on players in the close season.
Villa will look to avoid a similar fate as they prepare for their first season back in the English top flight since 2016, with their opening match at Tottenham Hotspur on Aug. 10.
($1 = 0.8053 pounds)
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Greg Stutchbury