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By ESPN Staff

Villa can't afford Santa Cruz, claims Ince

Blackburn manager Paul Ince has warned Aston Villa off a January move for Roque Santa Cruz by insisting they do not have the money to prise him from Ewood Park.

The Paraguay striker signed a new four-year deal with Rovers over the summer, but he has already been linked with a transfer to Manchester City who are now managed by Mark Hughes, the man who took him to the Lancashire club in 2007.

Villa are now reported to have joined City in the race for the South American, but Ince, speaking to The Sun, claimed: "Villa can't afford him.

"When it gets near to the transfer window, people start coming out with all these things.

"Roque signed a four-year deal, he came out and said he loves it at Blackburn. He wants to stay here and we want him to stay here.

"Until that changes, that's the only situation that matters.''

Meanwhile, Ince could be set to hand Benni McCarthy his first start of the season after the striker shed the pounds.

The South African has not scored for the club since February after claiming 24 goals in his debut season and 11 in the last campaign.

He has been limited to four substitute appearances this season and came off the bench in the goalless draw at Bolton last weekend.

McCarthy scored in the friendly against Ghana last week and is now pushing for a place in the team to face Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Ince said: "Benni came back to pre-season not quite right. He's had to work really hard to get himself to the weight he needs to be at.

"He has had a couple of games for South Africa and that has helped him. He seems to have that hunger back.

"Benni has been razor-sharp in training and he did well when he came on in the last 15 minutes against Bolton. He gives me another selection problem but that is what I get paid for.

"It is nice because Benni is a quality player and when he is right he is one of the best in the Premier League.''

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