Our next club to have a look at potential new signings for is Aston Villa.
Paul Lambert managed to keep Villa in the Premier League last season and will be looking for a top half finish by adding to his young squad. He has already brought in Bulgarian Aleksandar Tonev from Polish club Lech Poznan but will be looking to do more business before the 1st of September, especially if the club fails to hold on to star striker Christian Benteke who is attracting interest from clubs in the higher echelons of the Premier League and beyond. However, Lambert will be pleased that striker Andreas Weimann put pen-to-paper on a new deal as that was one of his close season priorities. Who may he look at bringing in to add quality and depth to his squad?
Here are five options:
Nicklas Helenius (Striker, Aalborg BK)
Whether or not Benteke stays with Villa, Darren Bent looks set to leave, with a number of clubs monitoring Villa’s star signing’s situation. That means that at least one new hitman will be needed at Villa Park and, if reports are to be believed, a deal for Helenius is almost done. He may not be well known, but 22-year-old Helenius is a handful at 6’5” and has two Denmark caps to his name. He was the second highest scorer in the Danish top-flight last season with 16. A deal is expected to be completed in the next week or so. Should the deal dramatically fall through at the last minute, or should Christian Benteke be sold, Villa may take a look at Peterborough United’s £3 million-rated Dwight Gayle, QPR’s Loic Remy or Watford’s Troy Deeney. Tottenham have been strongly linked with a move for Benteke and some are suggesting that Jermaine Defoe could move in the opposite direction as part of the deal. Also linked has been another Bulgarian in Ivelin Popov of Russian side Kuban Krasnodar who scored against Villa in the UEFA Cup first round for Litex Lovech 5 years ago.
Jores Okore (Defender, FC Nordsjaelland)
Villa will be looking for defensive reinforcements following the release of Richard Dunne and Okore could be the perfect fit. He is highly coveted by a number of Premier League clubs—Fulham had a bid rejected for him in January and he has revealed he turned down a move to Chelsea, in favour of waiting for a club to come calling who could offer him first team football. He has also been linked with Manchester United, played in the Champions League for Nordsjaelland last season and has received rave reviews from former Villa and Denmark defender Martin Laursen who believes that Villa could be the right club for the man with seven Denmark caps to his name. However, Villa’s initial bid was rejected and if Nordsjaelland manage to price Villa out of a deal, they could turn to Manchester City’s Joleon Lescott who supported Villa as a boy and who may want to leave the Etihad if he is not going to be first choice in a World Cup season. Another option is former Manchester United youngster James Chester who was one of Hull City’s best performers as they were promoted to the Premier League. Chester is also attracting attention from Newcastle United.
Hal Robson-Kanu (Winger, Reading)
Despite Reading’s relegation from the Premier League, Robson-Kanu, 24, had an impressive campaign in making the step up to the top-flight. The Wales international scored seven league goals and put a number of clubs on alert by saying he wants to stay in the Premier League. He later backtracked on that, saying he was in talks to extend his contract with Reading. If that signing does not come off for Paul Lambert, he has been linked with Stuttgart’s Guinean winger Ibrahima Traore, 25, who is also being chased by West Ham and Southampton, and Manchester City’s Scott Sinclair. Meanwhile, there have been mixed reports regarding Villa’s alleged chase of Montpellier winger Younes Belhanda. The Morrocan international has been quoted as saying he would like to join Villa and his club say a bid has been made. However, Villa have denied being interested.
James McCarthy (Midfielder, Wigan Athletic)
McCarthy is one of a number of Wigan players being linked away from the FA Cup Winners and he is coveted by a number of top-flight clubs after an impressive season, despite the Latics’ relegation from the Premier League. At just 22, he would also fit into Paul Lambert’s policy of recruiting young players and McCarthy would add all-round quality to just about any midfield in the country. That is why the asking price (thought to be about £14 million) and interest is high. Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United amongst others have been credited with an interest, but a club like Villa, where he would most likely be a regular starter – would perhaps better aid McCarthy’s progress. There are other midfielders on Paul Lamberts radar, with Wigan’s Shaun Maloney, Leicester’s Andy King and Spartak Moscow’s Aiden McGeady also linked and all are likely to move to the Premier League this summer. Another name mentioned has been Brentford’s 22-year-old Harry Forrester who came through the ranks at Villa but left without making a first team appearance. Forrester was instrumental in Brentford’s run to the League One Play-Off Final and is likely to move to the Championship but would be tempted if Villa were to offer him a return to the West Midlands.
Jesus Fernandez (Goalkeeper, Real Madrid)
Between the posts is not a major priority for Paul Lambert, but a second choice stopper may be required with Shay Given keen on leaving Villa Park. The Irish international found himself on the bench for much of last season due to the form of Brad Guzan who has firmly established himself as number one. Despite Iker Casillas being dropped by the Spanish giants, opportunities for Fernandez at the Bernabeu have been rare and he is currently fourth choice behind Diego Lopez, Casillas and Antonio Adan. He did, however, start Los Blancos’ last match of season against Osasuna and made 14 appearances last season for the club’s ‘B’ side Castilla in Spain’s Second Division. Lambert has been strongly credited with an interest and Fernandez is likely to want to seek opportunities away from Madrid. If Given does leave, he has been linked with Celtic. Expect to see Fernandez at Villa next season.