Villa close in on £7million Celtic midfielder Petrov

August 28, 2006

Aston Villa are confident Celtic's £7million-rated midfielder Stilian Petrov will become new manager Martin O'Neill's first signing before the transfer window closes at midnight on Thursday.

Sources close to the midlands club are indicating the unsettled Bulgaria captain is set to renew his partnership with former Hoops manager O'Neill, although the Northern Irishman still refuses to make any official comment about the player.

Petrov is currently preparing for the European Championship qualifiers with Romania and Slovenia but that is unlikely to prevent any deal finally being struck.

The 27-year-old has been O'Neill's number one target since he was appointed as David O'Leary's successor three-and-a-half weeks ago.

Petrov was a key figure for O'Neill in his successful time at Parkhead, whom he guided to three SPL titles and the UEFA Cup final and wrestled dominance north of the border away from Rangers.

But Petrov handed in a transfer request by the end of last season despite signing a new contract in January and is keen to play in the Premiership.

Portsmouth have also been keen on signing Petrov but their manager Harry Redknapp claimed on Monday: 'I think you will find Petrov has gone to Aston Villa. That is the plan.'

O'Neill is aware of the need to strengthen one of the smallest squads in the Premiership and has been holding talks with Aston Villa's new majority shareholder Randy Lerner.

In an ideal world O'Neill would like to bring in more than just Petrov in the next 72 hours.

But he has made it clear he will not sign players long term just for the sake of it and admitted he may look for loan captures to supplement his squad before undertaking more spending in January and next summer.