Rafa Benitez could get his wish of a return to the Premier League as Gerard Houllier is expected to need replacing as Aston Villa manager by the end of the week.
Houllier’s health problems have been well documented in recent months and a spell in hospital after heart troubles left assistant boss Gary McAllister in charge of first-team affairs for the final few games of the Premier League season.
It is now being reported that although Houllier’s condition has improved, it would be too risky for him to carry on in the dugout.
Villa chairman Randy Lerner and chief executive Paul Faulkner are concerned about the impact that carrying on as manager could have on the Frenchman’s future health and this may not be fair to both Houllier or the club,
However, how Houllier leaves Aston Villa is yet to be resolved and will depend on the results of a final test to be conducted by doctors.
Villa officials are expected to call time on Houllier’s tenure regardless of the test result, but if they conclude that he is fit to return to work then his payout could be as much as £5m.
This is because Houllier is still to complete his first year of a three-year deal, which is believed to have been worth £8m.
Should Houllier go, a number of high-profile names are likely to be linked with the Aston Villa vacancy as the club look to build on their transitional season this year, where they just finished in the top half of the table.
Towards the top of any managerial shortlist is liable to be former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez, who has stated his desire to return to Premier League.
Reports in Spain go as far to suggest that Benitez has rejected negotiations with Atletico Madrid in order to manage again in England, with Villa seeming his only logical destination.