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By ESPN Staff

Villa sign Maloney from Celtic at the death

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill completed his fourth transaction during the January transfer window with a couple of minutes to spare when he signed Celtic striker Shaun Maloney in a £1million deal.

The 24-year-old, a product of Celtic's youth system who played under O'Neill during his spell in charge at Parkhead, has put pen to paper on a three-and-a-half-year deal which will keep him at Villa Park until the summer of 2010.

Scotland international Maloney will also be reunited with midfielder Stiliyan Petrov, who moved from the Bhoys to Villa in August for £6million, plus veteran striker Chris Sutton, who is currently sidelined with blurred vision.

Maloney's transfer fee is only a fraction of that paid for Petrov because he was out of contract with Celtic in the summer after refusing to sign a new long term deal believed to be worth around £18,000 a week.

He was voted Scotland's player of the year last season, scoring 16 goals in 44 games, after battling back from a cruciate knee ligament injury in February 2004 which kept him out of action for 12 months.

But Malaysian-born Maloney's uncertainty over his future and a dip in form had seen him struggle for a place in the Celtic side during recent weeks.

O'Neill said: 'It goes without saying that Shaun is a player I know a great deal about and I am delighted to have done a deal to bring him to Aston Villa.'

Maloney, who scored 37 goals in 140 matches for Celtic, follows strike duo Ashley Young (Watford) and John Carew (Lyon) plus on-loan defender Phil Bardsley (Manchester United) in moving to Villa last month.

He is expected to make his debut in Saturday's home Premiership clash with West Ham.

O'Neill will be reasonably satisfied with his work in the transfer market in January after stressing the need to help out his crop of young players, including the outstanding Gabriel Agbonlahor who has played every game this season.

O'Neill said: 'The players who have been here have done really splendidly, really given everything. I have been delighted with them but they needed some help.'

The Villa chief rebuffed a last-ditch bid from Birmingham manager Steve Bruce to sign central defender Liam Ridgewell following the departure of Matthew Upson to West Ham.