Villa takeover rivals may unite to gain control

August 2, 2006

The consortia headed by Michael Neville and Nicholas Padfield QC are considering joining forces in the battle to take control of Aston Villa.

Padfield is believed to have been approached by representatives of Neville with a view to holding talks over a possible liaison when the former returns from holiday in Corsica at the weekend.

Lifelong fan Neville tabled a formal £64million bid to buy Villa last week while Padfield, a deputy judge, has also declared his interest in the midlands club.

A source close to AV06 said: 'We have had approaches by representatives of other consortia, one of whom is a representative of Michael Neville. We are considering opening discussions.'

A joint bid would give Neville and Padfield more financial clout to challenge the other interested parties - American billionaire Randy Lerner and the consortium fronted by Athole Still.

AV06 have already promised to provide Martin O'Neill with a £50million transfer kitty if he becomes the new manager.

O'Neill would be handed £30million to strengthen the squad before the transfer window closes at the end of August and another £20million when it reopens in January.

Certain members of AVO6 were understood to originally favour a managerial team of Danish duo Michael Laudrup and John Jensen if they gained control of the midlands club.

They were said to be concerned O'Neill would radically overhaul Villa's Academy, which has seen a conveyor belt of talent make its way into the first team squad.

But AV06 have spoken with O'Neill's advisors and are confident they could work with the former Leicester and Celtic boss if they win the four-pronged takeover battle.

An AV06 spokesman said: 'We have spoken with Martin's people and believe we can work with him.

'We are looking at a £50million transfer budget - £30million now and a £20million top-up in January.'

Lerner has re-emerged as a contender to buy Villa after initially expecting to tie up a deal for Villa with chairman Doug Ellis last week although progress is believed to be slower than expected.

Lerner, owner of NFL side Cleveland Browns, has also made it clear he sees O'Neill as the kind of top quality manager to replace David O'Leary - who parted company with Villa a fortnight ago.

The consortium fronted by Sven-Goran Eriksson's agent Still remains in the frame although, publicly at least, they have kept a low profile for the past week.

But sources close to the group are indicating Eriksson, whose reign as England coach officially ended on Monday, is not part of any takeover.

Still first met Ellis two months ago and had a second meeting last Wednesday when he was photographed leaving Villa Park.

An informal offer was made to Ellis during that meeting which appeared acceptable - although slightly above the asking price - but there has been no contact since from Villa towards Still.

The consortium want to rescue Villa from the doldrums on the playing side - they narrowly missed out on relegation from the Premiership last season - and also make them into a high profile club.

He tonight confirmed the possibility of joining forces with Neville.

Padfield told Radio Five Live: 'The latest state of play is we have been approached by representatives from other consortia who have already put their hats in the ring. One is a representative of Mr Neville.

'We are considering opening discussions with them but haven't taken a firm decision. Nothing is going to happen until I return (from holiday) at the end of the week.

'We haven't had serious discussions yet but an approach has been made to me and certainly I'm quite happy to arrange a meeting when I get back.'

Padfield added: 'One of the crucial issues is the extent to which Doug Ellis wants to retain a stake in the club or whether he is prepared to sell his entire shareholding.

'The other critical issue is what the position is as regards the team manager - has one been appointed, is one going to be appointed, the nature of his contract etc.

'This will impact on the amount of finance available to buy new players.'

Padfield insisted: 'I have had no discussions with Mr Ellis at all and all of us find it surprising that no-one from the club has bothered to tell us what the position is as regards whether any formal offers have been made or indeed the position as regards appointing a manager.

'I am having meetings (with Mr Ellis) next Tuesday. They will be one of a number of meetings but I don't anticipate we will be in a great rush to make a bid simply because we don't have all the relevant information on which to base it.'