Blackburn Club Focus – Jones cash splash unlikely as Rovers look to add Belgian bite to midfield

Blackburn Rovers’ stars have returned to pre-season training with young defender Myles Anderson, who signed a pre-contract agreement with the club earlier this year, the only new face in the squad. Manager Steve Kean is looking to add some bite to his team and the Blues boss has been handed a handsome transfer kitty. However, recent reports suggest that the enthusiastic Scot is unlikely to splash any of that available cash on Schalke midfield maestro Jermaine Jones.

Kean is a great admirer of the American enforcer, who shone at Ewood Park during a brief loan spell in the last campaign. Jones’s energy, drive and dynamism in the middle of the park saw him win over the Blackburn faithful, but his chances of joining Rovers on a permanent deal appear to be slim.

According to the Lancashire Telegraph, Champions League semi-finalists Schalke could be looking for up to £10m for Jones – a sum Rovers deem to be too high, given that the player is reaching the age of 30. Despite striking up an efficient partnership with Steven Nzonzi in front of the back four last season, there are some fans who believe Jones’s reported price tag is far too exorbitant and that the midfielder is replaceable.

One man who could comfortably slot into Jones’ position is Belgian star Axel Witsel. The 22-year-old Standard Liege powerhouse is rumoured to be available for around £8m, a fee that Rovers are more likely to be willing to pay given that Witsel is much younger than Jones. The Belgian, who is also being chased by Italian sides Palermo and Lazio, is a client of Kentaro, the agents who are allegedly advising owners Venky’s. Therefore, bringing him to Lancashire is a relatively realistic option.

Meanwhile, Rovers’ attempts to tie Canadian wonderkid Junior Hoilett down to a long-term deal seem to be working well. Recent reports have suggested that Kean met with Hoilett’s father in Canada and further talks are to follow. Hoilett himself has revealed he would be more than happy to continue his development at Ewood Park. According to Sky Sports, the youngster said: “I am happy at Blackburn Rovers playing for them consistently and of course I would be prepared to sign a new contract. Right now I am focused on playing for Blackburn and making a name for myself in the league. The national side will come after that and I am focusing on Blackburn. I just kept focused, listened to my family and friends and when I got my shot I had to take it. I had to work hard and capitalise on every opportunity I got. I did that and showed a consistent performance to keep myself in the side.”

Although Rovers are still waiting to spend some money on players, keeping Hoilett could well prove to be the most important piece of business the club conducts this summer. Hoilett played a huge part in helping keep Rovers in the Premier League last season and if Kean is given the opportunity to build a team around the Canadian, then the next few seasons could be very exciting at Ewood Park.

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