Three-way fight for Cahill

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The Independent Online

Aston Villa's central defender Gary Cahill is wanted by a trio of Premier League clubs, with Birmingham City and Sunderland joining the race for the player after Bolton had agreed a fee – believed to be about £5m – with Villa.

Birmingham manager Alex McLeish said, ahead of tonight's match against Sunderland, that he had not given up hope of signing the 22-year-old. He is desperate to bolster his defence as he currently only has Liam Ridgewell and Rafael Schmitz as centre-backs while Radhi Jaidi is on African Nations Cup duty. McLeish said: "Gary Cahill is a player we admire and would like to take him here as well. We will just have to wait and see what happens over the next 48 hours. I don't know how far down the line the Bolton thing is. But we have ruled ourselves in on anything that is happening."

Cahill spent three months on loan at Sheffield United with Martin Laursen, Curtis Davies and Zat Knight ahead of him at Villa Park. Villa manager Martin O'Neill is not keen on Cahill having another spell on loan, as the regulations mean he would be unable to recall him before the end of the season, and prefers a straight cash deal.

Another Villa defender, the Swede Olof Mellberg, will move to Juventus at the end of this season. Mellberg, 30, will leave Villa after seven years when his contract expires in the summer. Having signed a three-year deal at Juve, Mellberg said: "I am very happy with the agreement. It will be an important experience, at a prestigious club and in one of the most important leagues in the world."

O'Neill said: "Olof has made a big contribution at Villa and is a true professional, and that has been emphasised by the way he has performed this season at right-back.

"I moved him from centre-half, where he would prefer to play, and he has never once complained to me about having to play virtually every week at right-back. He was the only one of our defenders able to do that and I have greatly appreciated his efforts. But if someone like Juventus shows an interest, and within six months of your contract running out, I think you have to explore every avenue. He told me a while back he wanted to have a look and see what was going to develop and I wish him all the best for the future."

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