Trans-Midlands move best bet for Bent in bid to resurrect career

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Darren Bent’s Aston Villa career appears to be going from bad to worse and his departure from the club looks increasingly likely with every passing day.

Paul Lambert clearly doesn’t regard him as the man to lead his line, with the power and work ethic of Christian Benteke his preferred option to Bent’s ‘fox-in-the-box’ approach to centre forward play.

He was left out of the side for their relegation crunch clash with Southampton at the weekend, the injury that cut short his substitute appearance at Bradford the presumed cause for his absence this time, and as the most valuable asset at the club it’s difficult to imagine Lambert keeping him beyond the end of this month.

Villa are desperate to bring in new faces and should command a decent fee for the player, though they will have to accept that they will be unable to demand the full value for an England international with Premier League goalscoring pedigree given their current plight.

Would-be suitors know that firstly, Bent is the club’s top earner and the Villans aren’t fiscally endowed to the extent where they can have such a drain on resources sitting in the stands watching. Secondly, he is rumoured to be close to triggering an appearance clause that would entitle former club Sunderland to a sizeable sum should he reach the supposed milestone.

Armed with these two bargaining tools, Villa’s top-flight rivals could well haggle a few million off the asking price, that would generally be in the eight-figure bracket were it not for these extenuating circumstances.

Fulham are believed to be leading the chase for the striker’s signature, but with Dimitar Berbatov their lone frontman and internationals of Mladen Petric and Hugo Rodallega’s calibre waiting in the wings, they are unlikely to shell out on another big name forward.

Stoke, on the other hand, would be a club where Bent would flourish. He’d get plenty of service from the wide positions – akin to his early Villa days when Stewart Downing and Ashley Young were his providers – that have served the likes of Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones so well this season.

Bent possesses greater predatory instincts than the pair of these, as well as the Potter’s other frontmen and with Michael Owen’s tenure not expected to last beyond the season’s end, they could surely afford another sky-high salary for six months.

Lambert will want this matter sorted in double quick time, regardless of where Bent goes, so he can look to add some much-needed new faces to his squad ahead of the second leg of their Capital One Cup semi final with Bradford, which the Villans are 6/5 to qualify from.

All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date

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