McCarthy fee scares Villa

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The Independent Football

The Aston Villa manager, John Gregory, seems certain to have to look elsewhere for a new striker after seeing Celta Vigo put a £13m price tag on his No 1 target Benedict McCarthy.

The Aston Villa manager, John Gregory, seems certain to have to look elsewhere for a new striker after seeing Celta Vigo put a £13m price tag on his No 1 target Benedict McCarthy.

A statement from the club's financial director, Mark Ansell, claimed "everyone at Aston Villa considers this to be substantially in excess of the value" they place on the South African international.

But Ansell confirmed that proceeds received from the £8m sale of the defender Ugo Ehiogu to Middlesbrough plus "other monies" would be made available to Gregory. He insisted that McCarthy was the only name that Gregory had put to the Villa board of directors to consider in his bid to find a replacement for Luc Nilis, who has a badly broken leg.

Ansell said: "Aston Villa will benefit from a proportion of the Ugo Ehiogu fee [around £5m, with the remainder going to West Bromwich because of a sell-on clause]. Prior to the sale, which was sanctioned by John Gregory, it was made clear to him that these proceeds plus other monies would be available to him for strengthening the squad. The chairman [Doug Ellis] has worked hard over the weekend and on Monday in pursuing the manager's interest in McCarthy. However, his club have made it clear they will not release him until they have a replacement and are out of the Uefa Cup, and they are asking for a fee of £13m.

"Notwithstanding the current position on transfer and registration regulations, everyone at Aston Villa considers this to be substantially in excess of the value for a player who has only been first choice for his club once this year.

"Supporters should also understand that as early as the return journey from the Ipswich game, where Luc Nilis received his injury, and on numerous occasions since, discussions have taken place encouraging John and his staff to identify strikers to come to Aston Villa. But to date McCarthy is the only player who has been put to the board for their consideration."

Ansell also hit back at figures which suggested that Gregory had only spent a net sum of £3.4m on players since taking over from Brian Little as manager in February 1998. That had led to various supporters' groups criticising Ellis over his supposed lack of transfer dealings.

"There has been continued misinformation but, before the sale of Ugo Ehiogu, John Gregory's net transfer expenditure amounted to £19.3m," Ansell said. "Furthermore, during the same period John's transfer dealings have increased the annual salary bill by approximately £10m per annum."

Gregory issued a short statement effectively playing down suggestions of a rift with Ellis. "I continue to get the support of the chairman and the board," he said. "Even I have to realise that we cannot go out and buy Figo every week. Myself and my team are working hard with the current squad and possible additions."

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