Alex McLeish believes that Ollie Watkins could be the “special player” that launches Aston Villa to new heights this season.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, the former Villa and Scotland boss pointed to the impact Gareth Bale had at Tottenham and how much his exit hurt the Lilywhites.

Villa confirmed the capture of the 24-year-old on Wednesday after Football Insider revealed that a £28million deal had been agreed with Brentford.

The striker was a standout in the Championship last season with 25 goals during the regular season and another strike in the Bees’ play-off campaign.

Villa’s centre-forwards struggled to score regularly last season, with Wesley Moraes the top-scoring hitman with just six goals to his name.

However, McLeish believes that Watkins could be the catalyst to ignite Dean Smith’s men into life ahead of the new campaign.

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McLeish told Football Insider: “When you look at signings over the years, if you look at Gareth Bale left Tottenham, they get £80million or something. Then they went and bought about six and seven players.

“On paper you’re looking at those players and you’re thinking: ‘Wow, great, that’s fantastic,’ but you have no idea what a special player can do a team and it’s very difficult to replace that special player, even if you do bring in another six players. 

“Then you find out with the other six players that four or five of them trying to settle in, one of them hits the ground running maybe and you’re pulling your hair out. From that point of view, this guy has shown he’s a player of real quality and the finishing.

“Yes, he’s up to the Premier League but that’s the challenge. It could be that this is the guy they have been looking for for the last couple of years. That’s up to Ollie, he’s definitely looked the business when he’s come up against bigger teams.

“Aston Villa have put their eggs in one basket. They do have one or two alternatives up front but Dean Smith really believes in him. I don’t think we’d be amazed, we’ve seen it all too often before – one player can make the difference.” 

In other Aston Villa news, the Villans are looking to beat Leeds United to another signing after Watkins.