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Christian Benteke signs for Aston Villa

Villa finally get their man as 7m striker Benteke pens four-year deal

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 31 August 2012

Aston Villa have completed the signing of Belgium international striker Christian Benteke in a 7million move from Genk.

The 21-year-old has put pen to paper on a four-year contract after agreeing personal terms and passing a medical.

Villa had two initial bids rejected for Benteke but finally agreed a fee before the player flew into Birmingham on Friday.

Done deal: Christian Benteke has signed for Aston Villa

Done deal: Christian Benteke has signed for Aston Villa

Benteke is Villa's eighth signing of the summer and takes their spending during that period to just under 25 million.

He has been a major target in recent weeks for Villa manager Paul Lambert, who has watched the player in action on several occasions and feels he is the ideal kind of forward to supplement penalty-box predator Darren Bent and the speedy Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Benteke has netted three times in
five games this season after being on target 18 times during the 2011-12
campaign in all competitions.

He was also scored for his country for the first time in the 4-2 win over Holland earlier this month in what was his fifth cap.

Benteke
joins striker Jordan Bowery (Chesterfield) and midfielder Ashley
Westwood (Crewe) in moving to Villa on transfer deadline day.

'I am still young and I have realised my dream. My dream was to come here and I am very happy.' Benteke told Sky Sports News.

New boy: Ashley Westwood

New boy: Ashley Westwood

'I hope I will be a success. I am motivated.

'It was difficult and I say thank you to Genk and everyone there. I will go forward for a new challenge.

'I think every player wants to come to the Premier League and I am very happy.'

Benteke also admits he has taken his inspiration from fellow Belgian internationals Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen and Eden Hazard who all play in England.

He said: 'It was motivation for me when I went to join up with the national team and saw all the players from the Premier League – Kompany, Vermaelen and Hazard. It made me want to play here.

'But the manager also convinced me this was the perfect move.

'Aston Villa is a very historic football club and my colleagues on international duty have said good things about the football here in England.

'I am looking forward to getting my career started in the Premier League. I am a striker and I can play with my back to the goal. I can also play behind the striker and I am good in the air.

'I know Darren Bent is a great striker and I want to play with him and work hard for the team.'

Lambert added: 'Christian is only 21 years of age but already he's an established Belgian international and he's had a terrific time at Genk.

'He's something very different to what we have here and that added dimension will enhance the football club.

'A young lad he may be, but he's definitely a handful. He's tall, powerful, he has pace and we'll be stronger with him in the side.

'We're stronger now as a unit and we're trying to build step by step. This is an important step. I believe in the players I have here that they can go and perform.'

Meanwhile, Nathan Delfounso has joined Blackpool on loan.

Gabriel Agbonlahor dismisses links with move to Sunderland

I'm staying! Villa striker Agbonlahor dismisses reunion with O'Neill at Sunderland

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UPDATED:

05:54 GMT, 24 July 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Gabriel Agbonlahor has dismissed transfer speculation linking him with a move to hook-up with Martin O'Neill at Sunderland.

Agbonlahor spent four years under O'Neill at Villa Park but wants to focus on the new regime under Paul Lambert and playing alongside Darren Bent.

Staying put! Agbonlahor has reassured Villa fans he's not leaving this summer

Staying put! Agbonlahor has reassured Villa fans he's not leaving this summer

He told The Sun: 'When you've played with a manager before, especially one as good as Martin O'Neill, then you are going to be linked with him.

'But it's just pure speculation. I can assure Villa fans I haven’t heard anything about it and I’m happy here.'

Agbonlahor scored the winner for Villa in their pre-season friendly against the Chicago Fire on Saturday night before being forced off with an ankle injury.

He departed in the second half after taking a knock, but Villa swiftly allayed concerns over the severity of the problem by posting on Twitter: 'Gabby Agbonlahor injury not as bad as first feared. Out for two weeks.'

Reunion Agonlahor played for four years under O'Neill at Villa Park

Reunion Agonlahor played for four years under O'Neill at Villa Park

Chicago Fire 0 Aston Villa 1: Agbonlahor injury scare after scoring tour winner

Chicago Fire 0 Aston Villa 1: Agbonlahor injury scare after scoring tour winner

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UPDATED:

08:45 GMT, 22 July 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Gabriel Agbonlahor scored the winner for Aston Villa in their pre-season friendly against the Chicago Fire on Saturday night before being forced off with an ankle injury.

The 25-year-old forward headed home Chris Herd's cross in the 29th minute to secure the Barclays Premier League club a second straight 1-0 success on their United States tour.

Villan of the piece: Agbonlahor scored the winner, but was later removed after an injury scare

Villan of the piece: Agbonlahor scored the winner, but was later removed after an injury scare

Villan of the piece: Agbonlahor scored the winner, but was later removed after an injury scare

He departed in the second half after taking a knock, but Villa swiftly allayed concerns over the severity of the problem by posting on Twitter: 'Gabby Agbonlahor injury not as bad as first feared. Out for two weeks.'

Darren Bent played no part due to a slight thigh strain. Paul Lambert's side, who beat the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday, now head to Portland for a game on Tuesday.

On Fire! Victory over Chicago was Villa's second tour victory after they defeated Philadelphia Union

On Fire! Victory over Chicago was Villa's second tour victory after they defeated Philadelphia Union

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Proper Charlie: N'Zogbia was in action as Villa beat Chicago

Proper Charlie: N'Zogbia was in action as Villa beat Chicago

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QPR and Sunderland want Manuel Fernandes

QPR and Sunderland set for battle over former Everton midfielder Fernandes

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UPDATED:

21:44 GMT, 5 June 2012

In demand: Midfielder Manuel Fernandes

In demand: Midfielder Manuel Fernandes

QPR and Sunderland are keen on former Everton and Portsmouth midfielder Manuel Fernandes.

The 26-year-old is available on a free transfer after a contract dispute with his club Besiktas.

Sunderland also remain interested in Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor.

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West Brom 0 Aston Villa 0: Given and Hutton earn handy point for under-fire McLeish

West Brom 0 Aston Villa 0: Given and Hutton earn handy point for under-fire McLeish

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UPDATED:

16:23 GMT, 28 April 2012

Aston Villa edged closer to Barclays
Premier League survival after collecting a hard-earned point against
West Brom at the Hawthorns.

But it needed a controversial
refereeing decision by Mark Clattenburg to deny Albion victory after
Villa defender Alan Hutton clearly used his arm to block a goal-bound
header from Liam Ridgewell.

Peter Odemwingie's back heel is saved by Shay Given

Close: Peter Odemwingie's back heel is saved by Shay Given

MATCH FACTS

West Brom: Foster, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Brunt, Mulumbu (Andrews 79), Dorrans, Thomas, Odemwingie, Long (Fortune 69). Subs Not Used: Fulop, Shorey, Dawson, Cox, Scharner.

Aston Villa: Given, Hutton, Cuellar, Dunne, Lichaj, N'Zogbia (Gardner 74),Clark (Carruthers 90), Herd, Warnock, Agbonlahor, Heskey. Subs Not Used: Guzan, Collins, Ireland, Bannan, Weimann.

Booked: Warnock,Hutton,Clark,Heskey.

Att: 25,984

Ref: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

But Clattenburg and his assistant failed to spot the incident and the visitors survived to earn their 16th draw of the campaign.

Alex McLeish's side deserved their share of the spoils on the balance of play and were again left to rue failing to be more clinical in front of goal
Gabriel Agbonlahor, Chris Herd and Charles N'Zogbia all failed to make the most of gilt edged chances and Albion's Ben Foster was the busier of the two keepers.

The return of experienced defender Richard Dunne after a two and a half month lay-off with a broken collarbone also brought a steadying presence to the Villa back four.

Villa looked full of attacking intent in the early stages and Charles N'Zogbia found Stephen Warnock in space and his shot was blocked by Billy Jones.

But Albion nearly caught out Villa during their first serious counter-attack.

Under pressure: West Bromwich Albion's Peter Odemwingie is challenged by Aston Villa's Richard Dunne (right)

Under pressure: West Bromwich Albion's Peter Odemwingie is challenged by Aston Villa's Richard Dunne (right)

Carlos Cuellar failed to make clean contact on his attempted clearance from Shane Long's cross-shot after a determined run by the Republic of Ireland striker. The loose ball broke to 11-goal leading scorer Peter Odemwingie whose close-range back heel was blocked.

The first clearcut chance fell to Villa midfielder Chris Herd after 26 minutes.

Dunne showed good control to the right of Ben Foster's goal before sending over a low cross which landed in Herd's path. He struck his shot firmly enough but it flew straight at Foster who was able to make the save.

Feeling the heat: Villa boss Alex McLeish

Feeling the heat: Villa boss Alex McLeish

Agbonlahor, without a goal in 20 league games, then used his pace to get clear of the Baggies back four. But his touch was heavy inside the area and Foster was able to block his eventual shot.

Foster then blocked another shot from Agbonlahor, whose pace was causing problems for Jones, with his feet.

Warnock became the first player to be yellow carded after 36 minutes for bringing down Long who needed treatment before being able to resume.

Hutton followed Warnock into referee Mark Clattenburg's notebook after pulling back Jerome Thomas.

Cheeky: West Brom fans with a show of support for McLeish

Cheeky: West Brom fans with a show of support for McLeish

Brunt looked to handle a ball into the box from Hutton but Villa's penalty appeals were waved aside.
Albion were incensed when denied what appeared to be a clearcut penalty four minutes into the second half.

Ridgewell climbed above the Villa defence to power in a header from Graham Dorrans' corner. Hutton, who had already been booked, appeared to scoop the ball over the bar with his arm. But Clattenburg turned aside Albion's appeals.

Albion were looking sharper and Gareth McAuley headed just wide from a Brunt free-kick.
But Foster again came to Albion's rescue when he blocked a fierce close range attempt from N'Zogbia after he was completely unmarked from Agbonlahor's accurate cross.

Tempers were becoming frayed and Clark and Heskey were booked in quick succession for challenge on McAuley.

Cuellar came to Villa's rescue when he headed Odemwingie's shot off the line.
Albion were now looking more dangerous and Jonas Olsson was only inches too high with a header from a Thomas cross.

Villa probed for a winner in the closing stages and a mix-up between Olsson and Foster saw the ball break to Agbonlahor.

His cross was turned back by Heskey to Herd whose shot was blocked by Olsson.
Given produced a superb save with seconds remaining to keep out an Odemwingie volley from Thomas' cross.

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Aston Villa 0 Sunderland 0 – match report

Aston Villa 0 Sunderland 0: Relegation fears for McLeish as injuries add insult to injury

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UPDATED:

16:22 GMT, 21 April 2012

Aston Villa denied former manager Martin O'Neill a winning return in the home clash with Sunderland.

O'Neill was greeted with boos from Villa fans, despite three top-six finishes with the midlands club, after walking out on the club on the eve of last season.

Alex McLeish's side deserved their 15th draw of the campaign and former Villa midfielder Craig Gardner was sent off in stoppage time for his second bookable offence.

Welcome back: Martin O'Neill was returning to Villa Park, and was up against his old adversary from his time with Celtic in Scotland

Welcome back: Martin O'Neill was returning to Villa Park, and was up against his old adversary from his time with Celtic in Scotland

MATCH FACTS

ASTON VILLA: Given, Cuellar, Collins (Hutton 43), Baker, Lichaj, Albrighton, Herd, Ireland, N'Zogbia (Bannan 83), Agbonlahor (Heskey 48), Weimann. Subs not used: Guzan, Warnock, Gardner, Carruthers.

SUNDERLAND: Mignolet, O'Shea, Turner, Kilgallon, Bardsley, Larsson, Gardner, Colback, McClean, Sessegnon, Bendtner (Campbell 80). Subs not used: Westwood, Bridge, Vaughan, Ji, Meyler, Kyrgiakos.

Booked: Bendtner, Gardner

Sent off: Gardner

Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)

Villa, who included six academy
products in their line-up, enjoyed the better of the possession for
lengthy spells despite having to reorganise after injuries to James
Collins and Gabriel Agbonlahor.

But they lacked a cutting edge in
front of goal despite the efforts of 20-year-old Andreas Weimann to
unsettle the Black Cats back four.

It was Sunderland who created the
better opportunities particularly in the second half when Villa appeared
to tire and Stephane Sessegnon was a threat.

But poor finishing and some whole-hearted defending by the Villa back four kept them at bay.

Villa began promisingly and came
close to taking the lead inside the first 60 seconds. Agbonlahor charged
down a clearance from Simon Mignolet from Phil Bardsley's back pass.

Weimann was first to react to the rebound and Mignolet turned aside his chip shot.

Agbonlahor, without a goal in 18
Premier League games, looked lively and his goal-bound shot struck
Matthew Kilgallon and flew over his own crossbar.

Old face: Craig Gardner spent the early part of his career at Villa... and was sent off here

Old face: Craig Gardner spent the early part of his career at Villa… and was sent off here

Mignolet was the busier of the two
keepers in the early stages and he tipped a low drive from Charles
N'Zogbia around the post. Weimann appealed in vain for a foul after he
appeared to be clipped by Michael Turner just outside the box.

The home side continued to look the more threatening and Agbonlahor had a shot blocked by Turner on the edge of the box.

Weimann forced his way through two challenges before firing into the side netting.

Rough and tumble: The game was a hard-fought affair, rather than one lavished with real quality

Rough and tumble: The game was a hard-fought affair, rather than one lavished with real quality

Rough and tumble: The game was a hard-fought affair, rather than one lavished with real quality

Sunderland striker Nicklas Bendtner squandered a good chance to put the Black Cats ahead seven minutes before half-time.

Collins lost possession and allowed
McClean to make a clear run into the Villa area. His cross picked out
the unmarked Bendtner but the Danish international headed over the bar.

Collins limped out of the action
after 43 minutes to be replaced by right-back Alan Hutton with Carlos
Cuellar moving into the centre of defence.

Weimann should have done better when
he shot into the side netting at the start of the second period after
seizing Albrighton's first time pass.

Still struggling: Villa's big summer signing, Charles N'Zogbia, once again failed to make an impact

Still struggling: Villa's big summer signing, Charles N'Zogbia, once again failed to make an impact

Agbonlahor was troubled by his
shoulder injury and after 48 minutes was replaced by Emile Heskey.
Gardner became the first player to be yellow-carded a minute later for
bringing down Herd.

McClean missed the best chance of the
game after 55 minutes. Larsson made a run to the by-line and McClean
was first to react to his low cross but from six yards out he hooked the
ball over the bar.

Bendtner became the second Sunderland player to be booked for chopping down Albrighton.

Marching orders: Gardner was sent off after earning a second yellow card from referee Anthony Taylor

Marching orders: Gardner was sent off after earning a second yellow card from referee Anthony Taylor

Ireland came to Villa's rescue when
he cleared a shot on the turn from Bendtner off the line then Larsson
shot over at the far post.

Bendtner had the ball in the net
after 76 minutes but was judged to have strayed fractionally offside
before converting Larsson's cross although it was a tight call.

McClean had an injury-time header
saved by Given from another Larsson centre. Gardner was sent off for his
second yellow card after a foul on Albrighton.

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Gabriel Agbonlahor wanted by Sunderland

O'Neill looking to be reunited with Agbonlahor but Villa striker will cost 12m

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UPDATED:

05:52 GMT, 20 April 2012

Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill is hoping to sign Aston Villa stand-in captain Gabriel Agbonlahor to help solve his striker shortage.

With Asamoah Gyan set to leave the club permanently in the summer and Nicklas Bendtner's loan deal coming to an end, O'Neill has made a front player his No 1 target in the summer. And having worked with Agbonlahor at Villa, he sees him as the ideal man.

12m target: Agbonlahor is wanted by former boss Martin O'Neill

12m target: Agbonlahor is wanted by former boss Martin O'Neill

But, according to the Daily Mirror, Villa will demand 12million for the 25-year-old, who is the club's acting captain while Stiliyan Petrov receives treatment for acute leukaemia.

Agbonlahor came through Villa's famed academy and has made 252 appearances for the club, scoring 61 goals.

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Darren Bent will bounce back – Alex McLeish

Bent will bounce back from Euro heartache, insists Aston Villa boss McLeish

Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish is backing striker Darren Bent to bounce back from the ruptured ankle ligaments which look certain to rule him out of England's Euro 2012 squad.

Bent is facing three months out of action after suffering the injury during Saturday's Barclays Premier League clash with Wigan.

McLeish admits the player is 'gutted' at the blow, especially after missing out on England's 2006 and 2010 World Cup squads, but believes he will recover and come back strongly.

Heartbreak: Bent is set to miss Euro 2012 with ruptured ankle ligaments

Heartbreak: Bent is set to miss Euro 2012 with ruptured ankle ligaments

McLeish said: 'I have texted Darren a couple of times and I've also spoken to him. Right now he's not at the training ground and it will be a couple of days before we see him.

'But I know he is suitably gutted. It would appear to be the case that he may miss the European Championships, as the suggestions are he's going to have to possibly get an operation.

Bounce back: McLeish is confident Bent will come back strongly

Bounce back: McLeish is confident Bent will come back strongly

'This would definitely rule him out of the Euros, but he's still a young man and still has a big career ahead of him.

'He's got a lot of life left in him yet. It's a setback for everybody but I am sure he will come back strong and determined to get back among the goals on his return.'

McLeish has challenged the likes of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Stephen Ireland to make up for the loss of Bent at Villa.

McLeish said: 'You don't want to see any player have that bad luck. It is a big loss to us, such is his prowess as a goalscorer, but it gives an opportunity to others.

'We have other players who have to take the responsibility, players such as Gabby Agbonlahor and Stephen Ireland. That's the great challenge for them.

'It's also a chance for them to show they can handle that type of responsibility.'

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Wigan 0 Aston Villa 0: Match Zone

Agbonlahor aiming for England recall after shaking off injury woes

One Aston Villa striker may have been ruled out of the England squad with an injury but another returning to fitness is hoping he can get back in there.

Gabby Agbonlahor was withdrawn from the squad ahead of the friendly with Spain in November, when he could have won his fourth cap.

And a persistent hamstring injury meant he has missed the past month – but he was back in action in Villa's 0-0 draw with Wigan.

Return: Gabriel Agbonlahor is hoping to get back in the England squad

Return: Gabriel Agbonlahor is hoping to get back in the England squad

After Darren Bent was stretchered out of the game with an ankle injury in the 75th minute – ruling him out of the England team to face Holland on Wednesday – Agbonlahor said he now wants to be competing against his team-mate for a starting spot.

The 25-year-old said: 'I think I was never going to be in this squad because I've been out for a few weeks.

'I just want to get back playing, getting my fitness back up, I'm not ready for England yet.

'Hopefully I'll be looking forward to getting some more games and some more goals and try and break into the squad for the next one.

'Hopefully I can get myself on the plane [to the Euros], it would be fantastic.'

If loyalty is a key facet of representing your country then Agbonlahor fits the bill perfectly.

He is the longest-serving player at the club which he joined as a youth player in 1994 and is their second-highest Premier League goal scorer with 53, closing in on Dwight Yorke's 60.

Stricken: His team-mate for club and country, Darren Bent, was injured against Wigan

Stricken: His team-mate for club and country, Darren Bent, was injured against Wigan

And he was rewarded for his loyalty by manager Alex McLeish who gave him the captain's armband for the first time despite facing competition from more experienced players.

McLeish said: 'I could have made it Shay [Given], I could have made it James Collins, but I thought I might have made my head ache with that thinking and who to choose.

'So I thought I'd give it to the guy who's the longest-serving experienced player as they do on the continent.

'And Gabby was thrilled to get it. It was great I didn't think he could play the whole game, I said you might have to pass the armband on during the game, but he did.'

And Agbonlahor added: 'I never would have dreamed of being captain of my home club so to get the opportunity I'm really pleased and I'd like to thank the gaffer for giving me that responsibility.

'I think I got the armband because I'm Villa through and through.'

match zone

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Alex McLeish asks Charles N"Zogbia to find Wigan form

McLeish fuels N'Zogbia row after Villa boss challenges winger to find form

Aston Villa boss Alex McLeish has challenged winger Charles N'Zogbia to start producing the form he showed for former club Wigan on a consistent basis ahead of Saturday's clash at the DW Stadium.

McLeish splashed out 9million on N'Zogbia last summer and has seen only flashes of the inspirational play which helped to keep the Latics in the Barclays Premier League.

But the Villa manager insists N'Zogbia is not unique in taking time to settle at a new club.

Challenge: Charles N'Zogbia was a key player for Wigan - can he be the same for Aston Villa

Challenge: Charles N'Zogbia was a key player for Wigan – can he be the same for Aston Villa

McLeish said: 'I've been up there many times playing Wigan in the past with my team before and Charles was one of the differences.

'At the end of last season for Wigan, I thought he was the guy that made the difference.

'If he can bring that form to us on a really consistent level, then Charles is going to make a name (for himself) at Aston Villa.'

McLeish added: 'Charles has been slow to settle but you only have to look at other examples up and down the country.

'Why has Andy Carroll been slow to settle at Liverpool. Why has Stewart Downing been slow to settle there You are talking about two great players.

'It is just one of the mysteries of football. You tend to think when you get an English player, or a player who has been playing in England, that they will hit the ground running.

Hope: Alex McLeish (right) wants N'Zogbia to step up

Hope: Alex McLeish (right) wants N'Zogbia to step up

'But sometimes they need time to settle in so I don't think it is unique to Charles.

'Charles has shown us some great moments and hopefully there will be a few more from now until the end of the season.'

McLeish is hoping striker Gabriel Agbonlahor will also make an impact on his return after missing the last three games with a hamstring injury.

He said: 'We are no different to any other team in the country in that, if you are missing your top players, it can be a big miss.

'Gabby is one of the top players at this club and is feared throughout the Premier League.

Last: Robbie Keane (right) is preparing for his final loan appearance at Villa

Last: Robbie Keane (right) is preparing for his final loan appearance at Villa

'He is always a threat because of his pace and the way he imposes himself on a game. If he imposes himself, every player in the country would be frightened of him.'

Fellow striker Robbie Keane will make
his final appearance on loan from Los Angeles Galaxy and has made a
favourable impression with three goals in five starts for Villa.

But McLeish is not ruling out a return at some stage in the future for the former Tottenham player.

He said: 'We haven't really spoken about permanent moves or anything like that but we've now forged a relationship with Robbie.

'We understand he has got a couple of years on his contract to go there at Galaxy.

'But maybe he could do us a favour next year again as well when we can add another player to the squad for not a lot of money.

'That is good in these times of austerity and when the transfer window in January goes absolutely mental.

'Robbie has got the appetite, he has got the skill and hopefully some of the stuff he has shown on the training ground has rubbed off on some of the younger lads.'