Aston Villa on the brink of sealing Sidwell deal

July 8, 2008

Aston Villa are confident Chelsea midfielder Steve Sidwell will become their first summer signing - possibly within the next 48 hours - according to sources close to the midlands club.

Sidwell is set to hold talks with new Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari and he is expected to be told he is behind the likes of Michael Ballack, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and Deco in the battle for a midfield spot.

Once Sidwell knows where he stands with the former Portugal coach, Villa will make an official approach for the former Reading player who will cost in the region of £5million.

Villa manager Martin O'Neill is remaining tight-lipped but sources are optimistic the deal will go ahead sooner rather than later for a player who moved from the Royals to Stamford Bridge on a free transfer last summer.

It will be the first of many likely new arrivals at Villa Park during the next few weeks with Paul Robinson, Anton Ferdinand and David Bentley also on O'Neill's radar.

O'Neill knows he needs to bring in new blood quickly particularly as he is resigned to losing skipper Gareth Barry to Liverpool once a fee is finally agreed.

He said: 'We will build the squad. I don't really want to be going into the season the same way that we went into the last one. We are in the market - strongly - for players. We will be competing.

'We are light in numbers. We are lighter than last year.

'A significant number of players made more than 30 appearances in the Premier League. We may not be so lucky this season. In addition to that, we have lost players and we need to replace them.

'But I'm convinced we will start the season more strongly - in terms of a squad - than we had before.

'Bids have been going in. Negotiations are taking place on various fronts. It's just that we do not have anything official to announce just yet.

'However, I anticipate that there will be significant additions. I would just ask supporters to be patient for a little while longer.'

O'Neill admitted: 'Three months ago, when I sat down and thought about where the club needs to go, I had not anticipated Gareth Barry wanting to leave.

'We have been trying hard to strengthen. We are hoping to do so now, finding a replacement for him, quite quickly.'

Villa are hoping Liverpool will now match their valuation of Barry now they have agreed a deal with Portsmouth for striker Peter Crouch which could be worth up to £11million.

O'Neill is understood to be optimistic a deal could finally be struck before the end of the week after a fourth bid of around £17million including Reds defender Steve Finnan was rejected last week.

O'Neill said: 'Once the fee is agreed, Gareth will be able to complete his move. At the moment though, nothing has been sorted out between the two clubs.'