Beattie saga and empty wallet leaves O'Leary deflated

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The Independent Football

David O'Leary, the Aston Villa manager, has revealed his regret at a massive player clear-out which has generated only £2m in revenue.

O'Leary has off-loaded 16 players and drastically slashed Villa's wage bill since taking charge 20 months ago.

But the lack of interest from clubs in signing big money captures such as Bosko Balaban and Alpay meant they were allowed to leave for nothing to save on their high earnings.

The only player O'Leary was able to sell for financial reward was striker Peter Crouch, who moved to Southampton for £2m last summer.

Even that figure was less than half of the £4.5m paid to Portsmouth for Crouch's services by O'Leary's predecessor Graham Taylor two years earlier.

O'Leary said: "I'm just sorry with the 16 players that have gone out that I've only been able to raise £2m for Peter Crouch from his move to Southampton.

"I know the wage bill has gone down drastically but I wish I could have raised more to put into the pot. It's fair to say that £2m doesn't go far or do a great deal these days." O'Leary confirmed he is unlikely to bring in a new striker in January after losing out to Everton in the battle to sign James Beattie from Southampton.

The non-arrival of Beattie means that Juan Pablo Angel is the only fit senior striker at O'Leary's disposal - and he continues a stubborn inability to find the net.

"Forward-wise I don't think there is someone else out there," O'Leary said. "I'd hope to bring someone in and I've given the board a list of four players but I don't think we'll get anyone in."

One of the missing strikers is Darius Vassell and O'Leary is not confident he will return to action in the near future, having broken his foot against Fulham in late October. Asked about his possible return, O'Leary said: "You are talking February at least before he might be ready to come back. He hasn't even started any sort of training yet. I just have to get on with it - like I have over the past 18 months."

Meanwhile, the Villa defender Martin Laursen has set his sights on returning to full training within a fortnight as he dismissed speculation that he will not play again this season.

Laursen joined Villa from Milan in a £3m move last summer and has been sidelined since August after suffering knee ligament damage in the Premiership match at Charlton.

The Danish international then broke down in an attempted comeback in a friendly behind closed doors against Northampton in November after taking a knock on the same leg.

But he is adamant that the initial knee problem is cured and is now viewing matters in a positive light.

Laursen said: "The operated knee is doing fine. I don't feel anything but I had some other problems when I started again.

"When we played Northampton I came off with a knock on my leg, then two days later I damaged the medial ligament in my left knee and I am still struggling a bit with that.

"I am still struggling a bit but I am feeling OK. I just have to get rid of my pain in the ligaments but it is not serious. It is just an irritating injury but I am almost there and, for sure, I think I could be in full training in a couple of weeks.

"Am I confident I will be able to play again this season. Of course. Will I play by March? Before then. I am not that far away. The operated knee is fine. It is just the other small problems that I have had afterwards which have been irritating me."