Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier has been in pursuit of further players this winter following the £24 million signing of Darren Bent from Sunderland, as well as Jean Makoun from his manager’s former club Lyon.
The main focus of the Frenchman’s pursuits have been Blackpool’s Scotland international midfielder Charlie Adam and Sebastian Larsson of bitter city rivals Birmingham. However, where Houllier was successful in luring the likes of Bent to Villa Park, these two targets may be a little more difficult to pry away from their respective clubs.
Villa were rumoured to have made an offer in the region of £4 million for Blackpool’s captain, which Ian Holloway has since dismissed as far below their current valuation of the Seasiders’ best player. Houllier has had a similar response from Alex McLeish who, unexpectedly, has been unwilling to allow his Swedish midfielder to leave in January.
Having said that, Larsson has refused to sign an extension to his current contract with the Blues and as a result will be departing St Andrews in the summer. It could be a good piece of business the club to cash in on a player who has been injured for parts of this season. None the less, the 25 year old who signed from Arsenal having previously been on loan at City as well, is still considered to be a game changing and he has still made an impact this season, whether in the starting line-up or from the bench.
Furthermore, McLeish may well be looking forward to his clubs first cup final in ten years as he prepares to take on Arsenal at Wembley in the League Cup final on 27 February. Although McLeish has a David Bentley on loan from Tottenham Hotspur for the remainder of the season, a similar player to Larsson, the former Spurs and Arsenal player only recently arrived and is yet to make a great impact in terms of performances.
Birmingham may well gain more from keeping Larsson, as they look to solidify their Premier League status in just their second season back in the topflight, and allowing him to leave for nothing come the end of the season than from selling him to Houllier’s Villa for a fee.
With Villa in turn loaning out the John Carew to Stoke and allowing Steve Sidwell and Curtis Davies to leave in the January transfer window it would appear that Houllier is in the process of rebuilding his squad for next season. With this is mind it could well be a shrewd move for the Villa manager to quash his current interest in Larsson and instead sign the player on a pre-contract agreement once the blond Swede has less than six months to run on his current contract.
Houllier would get the player he desires for nothing, and it might well be that by the time Larsson were to make the short trip across Britain’s second city he could have a League Cup winners medal around his neck, and be all the more confident because of it.