Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has increased speculation that he is considering a move to bring Joleon Lescott to Villa Park by describing the unsettled Manchester City defender as a “top player”.
Lambert has operated a policy of signing young and hungry players from lower leagues since his arrival at Villa Park in the summer, but recently hinted that he needed some experienced heads in his squad for the relegation battle ahead in the second half of the season.
And England defender Lescott, who has failed to hold down a regular place in City manager Roberto Mancini’s starting line-up this season, appears to be firmly on his radar.
Villa may look to secure a loan deal with a view to a full transfer in the summer, but any permanent move during could hinge on Lescott taking a significant cut to his estimated £90,000-a-week wages at City.
Lambert is in constant contact with Villa owner Randy Lerner and is believed to have around £10 million, plus anything he can generate through the sales of fringe players such as Stephen Warnock, Alan Hutton and Richard Dunne, to spend on new players.
“He [Lescott] has been a top player and still is,” the Villa manager said. “He's a top, top player. He's not getting a game at Manchester City at the minute.
“As I've said before, I will sit with the rest of the staff and see what I can do, but I don't think you can ever dismiss it at any level whenever you are talking about a top player.”
Lambert has held several meetings with Lerner in the last couple of weeks to discuss possible targets and budgets for January.
The need for defensive reinforcements has been highlighted by three defeats in four games over Christmas and New Year in which Villa have conceded 17 goals.
“I speak to the chairman all the time,” Lambert said. “There's never a problem. He's been great, he really has. He said himself that this was always going to be a really tough year because of the transition.
“We won't just get people in for the sake of getting them in - there is ridiculous money and that sort of thing. That's not something I'll do but there's one or two that we will try to.
“People go on about age and all that. If players want to do it and are hungry then we're open to that. I'll just wait and see.”
But Mancini has ruled out allowing players to leave in the January transfer window and said Lescott has to stay at the Etihad Stadium.
He added: “We need players in, not out. Tomorrow [for Watford in the FA Cup] we have 16 [senior players]. We have to put two young players on the bench."