O'Leary seeks bargain deals

David O'LEARY, the Aston Villa manager, wants to sign Milan Baros from Liverpool in a cut-price £3m deal as he looks to further strengthen his squad after completing the £3m signing of the Milan central defender Martin Laursen.

O'Leary is looking to pick up bargains and hopes the Anfield club will make the Czech international Baros surplus to requirements this summer.

Baros' agent, Pavel Paska, confirmed the initial approach yesterday and said: "Villa officials have been in contact about Baros. We will see what happens." Baros was out of Gérard Houllier's side at the end of the season and Liverpool's bid for Alan Smith suggests he is down the pecking order.

O'Leary is also understood to be planning a £2m move for the Norwegian winger Morten Gamst Pedersen.

Villa watched the 22-year-old, also being linked with Manchester United and Blackburn, in action for Tromso against Molde yesterday evening.

Pedersen has just broken into his national side, helping Norway to a 4-1 win over Northern Ireland in February, and has been recommended by Villa's chief scout, Ian Broomfield.

O'Leary has spent around half of his summer budget on Laursen and has spelt out the need to bring in at least four players to bolster one of the smallest squads in the Premiership. He has halved the club's wage bill since replacing Graham Taylor in the Villa hotseat 12 months ago with 14 players having departed.

The PSV Eindhoven midfielder Marc van Bommel remains a target for O'Leary, who is also investigating the possibility of signing the Chelsea defender Robert Huth on a season-long loan.

With the departure of both Ronny Johnsen and the versatile Dion Dublin, the Villa squad currently only has captain Olof Mellberg, rookie Liam Ridgewell and newcomer Laursen to fill the centre-back roles.

But O'Leary is adamant he will not be looking to Euro 2004 as an avenue to strengthen his squad and has already presented chairman Doug Ellis with his hit-list.

He said: "I don't watch players at international tournaments. I know the players I want and I've given the list to the club. Now let the club go and get them. The danger of signing players on the evidence of what they have done at tournaments is that they might have the best three weeks of their lives and never be able to repeat that form.

"I'd like to keep an eye on my targets to see what they can do over a period of time - like I did with Gavin McCann and Thomas Sorensen before we signed them from Sunderland."