After a season of struggle, much of Aston Villa's summer business depends on their ability to hold on to Christian Benteke. Paul Lambert will again be expected to bring in reasonably cut-price moves from abroad, but experience is surely key to complement the club's burgeoning youth talent.
Last Updated: 14/06/13 10:07am
What's been said: "Finances dictate a lot of stuff, If you go and buy experienced players and names, they command a lot of money. I have to keep building this squad. It will have to be rebuilt. It's still in a transitional period" - Paul Lambert.
The budget: There's been little indication but a net spend of around £20m (and a lowering of the wage bill) looks likely again.
What's needed: The big question is whether Villa can keep hold of their big old Belgian Christian Benteke. The supplementary question is whether they will actually want to keep hold of their big old Belgian Christian Benteke if his suitors get anywhere near doubling the £10m they threw in Genk's direction last summer. Sell Benteke and Lambert's budget could be doubled in an instant...and when you're trying to re-build a club, that's a mighty big difference in budget.
Lambert's policy of buying young/unknown players on low wages is inevitably hit (Matthew Lowton) and miss (Karim El Ahmadi) but it's clearly a long-term commitment. That means that Villa are far more likely to sign a Jored Okore than a Joleon Lescott to bolster a disastrously leaky defence, while Ivelin Popov seems more realistic than Jermain Defoe as a striker target. They certainly need strengthening in both areas regardless of whether Benteke starts next season as a Villa player, which makes talk of a £10m-plus move for support striker Younes Belhanda seem a little decadent.
Ideal signing: It may seem slightly churlish, but the retention of Benteke would be better than any incoming recruit, highlighted by the fact that the Belgian scored 46% of Villa's league goals last season. Should he depart, Lambert will be forced to spend the relevant income cleverly if his side are not to struggle once more.
Sky Bet: After flirting with relegation for much of last season, Sky Bet believe Aston Villa should have enough to comfortably stay in the division again next season, going 7/1 that they go down. There's plenty of work to be done in the transfer market, though, and Lambert is keeping his cards close to his chest, revealing little about his targets. Last season he reserved his funds for relatively unknown players, so it's difficult to make judgement as to who is high on Lambert's list. Sky Bet offer 8/1 that they complete a swoop for Wigan's Arouna Kone, though Everton are the favourites now Roberto Martinez is in charge of the Toffees, while his team-mate Franco Di Santo is the same price to move to Villa Park. As for defence, Lambert is thought to be a fan of Ashley Williams, but their price to sign the Swansea man is 20/1 due to competition from the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool. Transfer specials here
Release list: Calum Barrett, Josh Barton, Courtney Cameron, Daniel Devine, Eric Lichaj, Andy Marshall
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