Express & Star

Robbie Keane set for talks with Villa

Robbie Keane is inching closer to a return to the West Midlands after being cleared for talks with Villa next week.


Robbie Keane is inching closer to a return to the West Midlands after being cleared for talks with Villa next week.

The one time Molineux hero is up for grabs after falling down the pecking order at Tottenham and is poised to join the ninth club of his 13-year career.

The 30-year-old finished last season on loan at Celtic but with the Parkhead club unable to afford the permanent deal Spurs boss Harry Redknapp is demanding, a fresh start in the English Premier League is now top of Keane's agenda.

And Villa are regarded as favourites to sign him - despite rival interest from Fulham - and take care of some unfinished business from a distant era.

Eleven years ago, the club baulked at meeting the £6m asking price Wolves were demanding for the young Irish talent who had made such a dramatic impact at first team level.

A then top-flight Coventry nipped in and launched Keane on the Premier League stage to trigger a lucrative globe-trotting career which saw clubs splash out an aggregate of more than £70m to hire his services.

Keane's six-year spell with Spurs has been the most settled of that period, the Irish international even returning to the club after his dream move to Liverpool in 2008 turned sour.

But his role within Redknapp's changing Tottenham line-up has diminished - and that makes him prime material to enjoy an end-of-career climax under O'Neill's mercurial touch at Villa.

The prospect of Keane heading for Villa Park is part of a web of transfer intrigue.

For Villa to finance the deal and the other recruits O'Neill is being linked with this summer, sales need to be made with James Milner's departure to Manchester City the most lucrative.

Milner's sale would also give the Villa manager funds to pursue Aiden McGeady at Celtic while, as part of the same chain, Redknapp is expected to recruit Craig Bellamy from City if and when Milner arrives at Eastlands.

But other transfer cash could be raised by the sales of the 'fringe club' at Villa - the group of permanent stand-in players which includes Luke Young, Curtis Davies, Nigel Reo-Coker and Steve Sidwell.

Midfielder Sidwell looks to be the first to get his ticket out after the two clubs agreed a £2m fee yesterday and the player met with Fulham officials.

West Ham are also interested in Sidwell but Fulham are thought to have won the race having convinced Sidwell of their managerial plans following Roy Hodgson's departure.

And that ties in with reports that former Spurs boss Martin Jol will quit Hamburg to take the vacant manager's job next week

All of Villa's plans are hugely influenced by the fate of the Milner deal and today brought fresh speculation in Manchester that City are preparing to step up their attempts by making a second bid in the region of £25m.

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