Aston Villa Transfer Focus – Bent edging closer to exit

Striker Darren Bent, after a frustrating season, is being targeted by other clubs from around the Premier League, appearing surplus to requirements at Aston Villa. Despite beginning 2012-13 as captain, Bent soon became out-of-favour and first team starts were at a premium after the end of September, largely due to the form of new signing Christian Benteke and the emergence of Andreas Weimann.

The 29-year-old struggled to hide his frustrations at his lack of action throughout the season, joining a long list of senior players, including Shay Given, Brett Holman and Stephen Ireland, who were forced to play second fiddle to relative youth. Bent is now attracting interest from the likes of Newcastle United, who, according to The Guardian, are battling Fulham and newly-promoted pair Crystal Palace and Hull City for his signature.

A move to any of these clubs would be attractive for Bent, with regular football likely to be guaranteed. Villa appear willing to allow Bent to move, with their asking price being in the region of £8m. It would though represent a massive loss for the club, having signed the England international for a club record fee from Sunderland in January 2011.

Given Bent only made 12 starts last season, his probable exit is unlikely to affect the Villa team to a high extent. In spite of continued rumours around Benteke’s future, he is still amongst manager Paul Lambert’s striking options, along with recent arrival Nicklas Helenius, Weimann, and youngster Jordan Bowery. The option of re-introducing Nathan Delfouneso to the Villa fold is also open to the Scot, although reports on Monday suggest Delfouneso is heading for the exit door as well.

Questions were initially raised over Lambert’s continued omission of Bent last season. However, the consistent form of Benteke helped silence those arguments, and calls for a strike partnership between the two were ended after such an attempt by Lambert proved unsuccessful – a 2-1 defeat to Newcastle in February – as Bent was substituted at half-time.

Critics of Villa’s decision to allow Bent to look for a new club will look to his impressive goalscoring record over a career which began at Ipswich Town over a decade ago. His form in the Championship led to him being signed by Charlton in 2005, followed by a spell at Tottenham Hotspur before moving to Sunderland. Bent has so far managed 103 Premier League goals.

Elsewhere, while Holman has already left, joining Dubai club Al Nasr. Goalkeeper Given is another player waiting for an attractive enough offer to move clubs, and the signing of Norwich City’s third-choice stopper Jed Steer suggests that Lambert is expecting Given to leave in the coming weeks, with Steer taking his place as understudy to current first-choice Brad Guzan.

Lambert has already gone a long way in shaping his squad for next season, which begins on August 17 at Arsenal. Steer is the club’s sixth summer acquisition after Helenius, central defender Jores Okore, left-back Antonio Luna, and wingers Aleksandar Tonev and Leandro Bacuna, youngsters who will replace the experience of players such as Bent.

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