Ellis to face renewed takeover bid for Villa

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The Independent Online

In the wake of David O'Leary's departure last week from Aston Villa, a leading member of the consortium that wanted to buy out the chairman, Doug Ellis, last season has said he is relaunching his bid to take control of the club.

Michael Neville, a Midlands businessman and lifelong Villa fan, claimed he has as yet unnamed allies ready to join a new takeover attempt. "I have accelerated my efforts to make a bid for Aston Villa," he said. "I believe I have backers but cannot reveal any more. The timescale is short. If anything is going to happen, it would have to happen soon."

Martin O'Neill has been linked with a move to Villa Park to replace O'Leary, who left the club last Wednesday, and Neville said: "As for Martin O'Neill, it would be fantastic to have him. Any club that has him on board would be very fortunate. He is top of the tree."

Neville is believed to be leading the bid on behalf of Brian and Luke Comer, a pair of Irish property developers who own the Comer Homes Group. Ellis is due to return from holiday later this week with Villa fans calling for him to go after more than two decades in charge.

The Liverpool manager, Rafael Benitez, has ruled out any move to Real Madrid for the midfielder Xabi Alonso as he prepares to make further signings to bolster his squad.

Liverpool head to a training camp in Switzerland tomorrow, with three matches scheduled for the trip, and Benitez wants to add new faces ahead of their Champions' League third qualifying round tie on 9 August.

One could be the Birmingham winger Jermaine Pennant, with Liverpool expected to make a bid soon, but first Benitez has been forced to quash speculation about Alonso, saying: "There has been no truth in stories about Xabi Alonso, we have had no official contact and for sure he is staying here, we do not want to sell him."

Leeds have moved a step closer to signing the Luton midfielder Kevin Nicholls after the clubs agreed a £700,000 fee. The 27-year-old has been linked with moves to Stoke, Crystal Palace and Norwich but seems destined for Elland Road, where he will now discuss personal terms.

Nicholls should become third summer signing for the manager, Kevin Blackwell, after the arrival of Sebastien Carole from Brighton and Millwall's Dave Livermore.

In Italy, the match-fixing judgement is approaching its conclusion with the four clubs involved - Juventus, Lazio, Fiorentina and Milan - set to hear the outcome of their appeals tonight.

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