Villa close in on Sidwell

Aston Villa are closing in on the signature of Chelsea midfielder Steve Sidwell.

The midlands club are understood to be on the verge of agreeing a £4.5million deal for the former Reading player which could go through as early as next week.

Sidwell has been one of Villa manager Martin O’Neill’s main transfer targets since the season ended.

And his expected arrival will offset some of the disappointment surrounding the club regarding the expected departure of Gareth Barry to Liverpool.

Sidwell played a major part in Reading establishing themselves in the Barclays Premier League two seasons ago before moving to Stamford Bridge last summer.

The former Arsenal trainee, who has also attracted interest from Manchester City, had limited opportunities under Jose Mourinho and then Avram Grant as Chelsea narrowly missed out on Premier League and Champions League glory.

O’Neill, who is currently working as a television pundit at the Euro 2008 finals, has a number of other targets including Blackburn winger David Bentley who has been linked with a £15million switch to Villa.

He is aware of the need to considerably bolster what was the smallest squad in the Premier League last season having already lost the services of Olof Mellberg, Patrik Berger and Thomas Sorensen.

And Barry is certain to leave once Liverpool match O’Neill’s valuation of his skipper at around £18million.

Jimmy Bullard, Tom Huddlestone, James Milner, Aaron Lennon, Pascal Chimbonda are possible Villa targets along with Sporting Braga right-back Joao Pereira and Crystal Palace teenager Shaun Scannell.

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