Aaron Hughes clinches Villa deal

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The Independent Football

Aston Villa have signed versatile Newcastle defender Aaron Hughes on a three-year deal.

The 25-year-old arrived in the midlands earlier today to discuss personal terms and undergo a medical after the two clubs agreed a fee.

The Northern Ireland captain becomes Villa's second signing of the week after Patrik Berger agreed to move from Portsmouth on a free transfer.

"I'm feeling quite excited," Hughes said.

"This is obviously the first time I have switched clubs so it's all a bit new for me.

"I have managed to have a quick look round the stadium and the training ground and I have been really impressed by what I've seen.

"I think Villa are a very similar club to Newcastle in many respects - both big city clubs, both with great history and tradition and both have struggled to win trophies in the last few years."

Hughes added on his agent's website, www.stellargroup.co.uk: "The challenges here are very similar to the ones I faced at Newcastle - we need to break into the top six and qualify for Europe at the minimum.

"Obviously I am leaving behind a lot of friends in the north east.

Newcastle are a tremendous club and have made me the player I am today.

"I was privileged to work under some great managers there and play with some unbelievable players.

"I would like to say a huge thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way and wish the club all the best for the future.

"But I am now really looking forward to coming back for pre-season here and meeting up with all the Villa lads."

A Newcastle spokesman said: "Aaron Hughes leaves with the best wishes of Newcastle United, who thank him for his excellent service to the club and wish him well in the rest of his career."

Hughes spent more than eight years at St James' Park and proved a valuable member of the squad since making his debut as an 18-year-old in a Champions League clash in Barcelona in November 1997.

A centre-half by trade, he has played much of his football at full-back and has been used extensively by the four managers under whom he has worked as a senior player, Kenny Dalglish, Ruud Gullit, Sir Bobby Robson and Graeme Souness.

Hughes arrived on Tyneside as a trainee and signed his first professional contract in March 1997.

He made 278 appearances for the Magpies and has 40 international caps to his name, and is currently in rehabilitation after surgery on a hernia which ended his season early.

The Cookstown-born player is one of the longest-serving on the books and has been a model professional at a club where too often in recent times the focus has been on bad behaviour on or off the pitch.

Villa remain hopeful of adding his former team-mate Craig Bellamy, who is on loan at Celtic, to their squad, although they will have to wait to put their case to him until after next weekend's Tennent's Scottish Cup final with the Welshman having insisted he does not want to discuss his future until the season is over.

Hughes' name was not at the top of the list of expected departures from St James' as Graeme Souness prepares to reshape his squad, but seems certain to join Dutch striker Patrick Kluivert and a series of other high-profile players in leaving.