The revamping of Aston Villa's strikeforce gathered momentum last night. John Carew, the 6ft 4in Norway international, joined Martin O'Neill's squad from Lyon, the French champions, in a straight swap for Milan Baros, while the deal to bring Watford's Ashley Young to Villa is poised to be completed today.
Carew, 27, has often been linked with a switch to the Premiership, a £7.5m transfer from Valencia to Fulham collapsing five years ago because the London club were concerned about the condition of his knees. Moves to Roma, Besiktas and Lyon dispelled doubts about his long-term fitness, and O'Neill has acquired a target man with a respectable scoring record, good pace and an adhesive touch.
The Lyon president, Jean-Michel Aulas, believed Carew "could fit the English game perfectly", possibly a pointed comment given that he had scored only once in the French league this season and made plain his unease with the rotation system operated by the Lyon coach and former Liverpool manager, Gérard Houllier. Carew and Baros were both rated at £4.3m and each has signed a three-and-a-half-year contract.
Carew has had a chequered career - on and off the pitch. In 2003, an altercation with his Norway team-mate John Arne Riise, of Liverpool, saw them trade blows on their country's team bus. Nils-Johan Semb, then the Norway coach, banished him from the squad, although he later returned. Born of a Gambian father and Norwegian mother, he has since become a Christian and a supporter of various charities.
Houllier, who paid £5.1m to bring Carew from Turkish football in 2005, first bought Baros for Liverpool for £3.6m from Banik Ostrava five years ago. The Czech cost O'Neill's predecessor, David O'Leary, £6.5m a season and a half ago, yet he has mustered just nine League goals in 42 games for Villa.
On Saturday, Baros was booed by many Villa supporters when he was substituted after squandering a succession of opportunities during the 2-0 defeat of Watford. He finished top scorer during the European Championship finals of 2004 but leaves the English game with a solitary goal to his name this season.
Baros, 25, had not requested a transfer but jumped at the chance to work under Houllier again at Lyon, despite having turned him down in favour of Villa. "I didn't want to leave England at that time because I wished to develop in the Premiership," he said. "It is never easy changing countries but I know Gérard Houllier well. I know what is awaiting me, and a number of the players [at Lyon] speak English."
The protracted saga of Young's signing is expected to reach its conclusion today, with Villa paying Watford £8m up front for the 21-year-old with three Premiership goals to his name this season.
Patrik Berger, who gave an impressive cameo performance as a substitute for Villa on Saturday, is in line for a move to Qatar. Lee Hendrie, who does not figure in O'Neill's plans, could also be on his way before the transfer window shuts.Reuse content