By Will Butcher

Angers’ central midfielder Romain Saiss has revealed why he decided to stay with the Ligue 1 outfit after Aston Villa made a bid in January.

The 26-year-old was linked with Barcelona in January by Spanish newspaper Sport, after playing an integral part in Angers’ impressive Ligue 1 campaign.

The three-time Moroccan international told French publication Ouest France that he was still growing as a player at Angers, suggesting that he believed staying with the French club was more beneficial than a move to the Midlands.

“I would have been able to join Aston Villa in the break but that was not very sportsmanlike,” said Saiss. “I wouldn’t leave if the set project still allowed me to grow and develop myself.”

The former Le Havre midfielder missed just three Ligue 1 games last season, starting the other 35 and adding two goals. He is known for his combative effect in midfield, picking up 12 yellow cards last season as he tried to break his opposition’s attacking flow.

Aston Villa manager Roberto Di Matteo hasn’t yet been linked with the midfielder this summer, but with 12 months remaining on his contract the former Clermont star could be available in a cut-price deal.

He would need some convincing to leave the Stade Jean-Bouin and join Villa, after stating that he has a good working relationship at Angers and with their sporting director Olivier Pickeau.

“I wanted to finish this first season in Ligue 1 in Angers,” he said. “Things are clear between Olivier and I, we talk and there are no low blows.”

Di Matteo has already brought in goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini, defender Tommy Elphick and midfielder Aaron Tshibola.

In other Villa transfer news, this left-back could be set for an instant return to the Premier League in an £11million deal.