Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert was today set to start his recruitment drive after officially swinging the axe – as he eyed £12million Younes Belhanda.
Richard Dunne, Eric Lichaj and Andy Marshall have all been released as Villa look to slash their wage bill.
The trio are headed by defender Dunne, who signed from Manchester City for £5million and made 114 appearances for Villa but has not played for the club since May 2012 after groin and hip injuries.
Goalkeeper Marshall never played in his four years at the club, while Lichaj made 42 appearances since signing from Chicago Fire in 2008.
Jean Makoun, who cost £6.2million in 2011, is also joining Rennes after the club took up an option to buy him following a loan spell.
The summer exits, which were expected, will free up much-needed cash for Lambert with Montpellier’s Belhanda on Villa’s radar.
The French side have slapped a £12million price tag on the midfielder who has told Villa he is ready to snub Inter Milan, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and Galatasaray to sign for them.
Morocco international Belhanda said: "I am definitely aware that there are five clubs with serious interest in me. The president told me how much I will cost for any team that wants me.
“I have told everyone that England will be my first choice. Aston Villa is a great club with a big history playing in the best league in the world, so let’s see what will happen.”
The contracts of Graham Burke, Derrick Williams, Michael Drennan, Samir Carruthers and Daniel Johnson are set to expire but all five have been offered extensions.
And Villa are close to their first signing of the summer after agreeing a £50,000 deal with Torquay for Liam Prynn.
The 16-year-old striker is yet to make a senior appearance and was due to sign a two-year scholarship at Plainmoor.
United chief executive Andrew Candy said: “As I understand it, the terms have been agreed, and all parties are happy about the situation.
“We are certainly excited – the deal is good news for the club and for Liam and his family.
“But it’s good for our other youth players, who see that things like this can happen to a youngster at Torquay United.
“It's also a real boost for the staff and coaches in our youth department.”Subscribe to our Newsletter