After the appointment of Alex McLeish as Aston Villa was confirmed this morning, links to his prized assets at City were inevitable and began even before he had signed on the dotted line, with moves mooted for the likes of Scott Dann and Ben Foster.
The former Blues boss will be looking to bolster his defensive reinforcements after a dismal campaign from Villa in that regard last season and his first port of call in the transfer market is likely to be a new goalkeeper after veteran Brad Friedel left for Tottenham earlier in the summer. When it comes to a new number one at the club there will only be one favourite. Ben Foster had a fantastic season despite the Blues demise last season in his opening campaign since securing a £6m permanent switch from Manchester United.
The 28-year-old’s form saw him cement his place as understudy to Joe Hart in the England setup before making a shock announcement confirming that he was taking a leave of absence from the international game. The ex-Watford stopper is one of those at St Andrews who is all but certain for a retrun back to the Premier League and McLeish has already been established as one of the favourites to complete his signature, though he is likely to have to stave off stiff competition to do so.
The defensive side of Birmingham’s game has never been in question since McLeish’s appointment and despite relegation last season, Foster still managed to keep 9 clean sheets in the Premier League, a record which the Sun claim will lead City to ask for as much as £10m for the keepers services. Birmingham’s record at the back was down in no small part to Foster’s team mate Scott Dann, who had a fantastic campaign before injury cut it short, a key factor in his sides demise after their League Cup success.
McLeish is known to rate Dann extremely highly but is believed to be joined in that opinion by a number of Premier League managers including Arsene Wenger and Kenny Dalglish. If the Scot is to sign the 24-year-old he may have to act quickly after reports emerged today suggesting that Stoke had made an offer for the young centre-back in an attempt to steal a march on a long list of suitors. City conceded 25 goals in 20 games while the former Coventry defender was in the side, compared to 30 in the remaining 18 league games that he missed alongside Roger Johnson.
In those 20 league appearances, Dann netted twice and assisted one more goal, as well as picking up 4 yellow cards. The Englishman had a pass success rate of 73% and won 54% of his aerial duels. He completed 2.7 tackles per game in comparison to defensive partner Johnson’s average of 1.3 and made a team high of 8.4 clearances per match. At 24 he has been tipped as a future England defender and is thought to be valued at around £12m by his club, meaning a bid for both himself and Foster would probably command a fee in excess of £20m.
Due to the wide spread interest that is likely to be in place for both players, McLeish’s unsavoury departure from the Blues may be of detriment to Villa’s chances of capturing the duo. The City board were extremely unimpressed by the former Rangers boss’ resignation via email and there is obviously no loved lost between the two clubs, especially after the events of this week. In my opinion a move for Foster is more likely due to the clubs lack of a goalkeeper and the fact that Dann is being linked with the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal but I feel both would definitely go some way to resolving our defensive frailties from last year.
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