Emile Heskey will leave Aston Villa on a free this summer after being told he won’t be offered an extension to his three-and-a-half year deal that expires next month.
What Culture has heard that Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill has been monitoring the situation and will make a swift move for his former player to bolster his faltering front line at the Stadium of Light.
Additionally, O’Neill is also expected to make a move for Spanish defender Carlos Cuellar whose four-year contract at Villa also expires this summer.
O’Neill was manager of Leicester City when he originally brought Heskey up from the club’s academy into the first team where he became an accomplished Premier League striker. In the 90′s, O’Neill said Heskey was the player who almost single-handedly kept Leicester in the Premier League for so long, and was the club’s most fruitful time in recent memory as they also won a League Cup together. Heskey would go on to be capped 67 times by England and be subject of an £11 million move to Liverpool back in 2000.
O’Neill never forgot how important Heskey was to Leicester and in January 2009, nine years after he sold him, bought the player from Wigan to Aston Villa for a fee of £5.5 million. Although his scoring ratio of 1 goal in every 9 games for Villa is not as good as his spells at previous clubs, O’Neill is keen to bring the 34-year-old player to Sunderland on a free transfer, only three and a half years since he spent £5.5 million on him.
O’Neill is expected to make big changes and remould Sunderland in the summer into his own vision. He is working with Steve Bruce’s final side and knows he needs to strengthen his forward line with on-loan Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner not being prolific enough (and himself not interested in a permanent move to Wearside) and Bruce’s final big money singing Connor Wickham not close to being the finished article yet.
Heskey wouldn’t likely be a first choice striker for Sunderland but a useful squad player.
Heskey himself says he is fit enough to carry on playing at the top level;
“I’ve enjoyed my spell at Villa. We got to the Carling Cup final, and an FA Cup semi-final. It gave me the chance at Wembley again so I can’t complain.
“But there are no contract talks with Villa so I will be looking elsewhere.
“I haven’t got a club (lined up) to be honest. Obviously my contract is up so I just take it day by day and see what crops up.
“But I want to carry on playing. I’m 34. I still feel I can play so I don’t see why I need to retire just now.
“I still want to play at Premier League level. From when I started, I always said I wanted to play at the highest level wherever that might be. You always strive for that.”
30-year-old Spaniard Cuellar meanwhile is on a free just four years after O’Neill spent £7.8 million to bring him to Villa from Rangers in August 2008. He has yet to be offered a new contract at Villa and O’Neill is keen to make a move to improve his defence which has struggled through consistent injuries to the likes of Titus Bramble, Michael Turner and John O’Shea.
Cueller tweeted at the weekend, seemingly in prep for his exit;
“Very happy because, after my last match at Villa Park (against Tottenham) the team will stay one more year where it has to be.
“Thank you all for your support in good and the bad moments all these years!”
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