Aston Villa move closer to £6.5m Jean Makoun deal

Aston Villa are close to completing the signing of Lyon midfielder Jean Makoun after manager Gerald Houllier held "positive talks" with his former club.

Villa have already agreed a deal believed to be worth an initial £5 million rising to £6.5 million.

Houllier flew to France to hold talks with the player he attempted unsuccessfully to sign from Lille when in charge of Lyon.

Now the ex-Liverpool boss is on the verge of signing the 27-year-old Makoun, who will have a deal in the next 24 hours.

But any transfer would not be concluded in time for Makoun to be involved in Sunday's derby at Birmingham.

Houllier said: "We have had some very positive talks with the club (Lyon), with the player and his representative.

"I hope to be able to say more soon but for the moment nothing is signed.

"But it is going on positively and he (Makoun) should have a medical in the next day or so.

"He can play as a holding midfielder or go box to box and it is an area where we don't have a lot of experience.

"The two that are playing at the moment, Reo-Coker and Petrov, we saw what happened when the two were injured at the same time.

"It is an area where we need more players and we are trying to sign quality players.

"When he was at Lille, I tried to sign him (for Lyon) and they signed him just after I left."

Houllier has ruled out any audacious attempt to sign Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema, who scored for France against England at Wembley in November.

He said: "I don't think Benzema will come to Villa. Jose (Mourinho) said he is missing strikers so how can he get rid of one of the only ones he has available at the moment?

"I think he is trying to sign a new striker. I didn't even dare to get in touch with Jose because I know the situation he is in at the moment!"

Houllier remains interested in signing Blackpool midfielder Charlie Adam after having bids of £2.5 million and £3.5 million rejected.

He said: "We did things the right way. We went to the club and said we were interested in the player.

"But there has not been any official reply except what I read from Ian (Holloway). Everyone is entitled to say what they want.

"Will we be back in for him? It is difficult to say at the moment. He knows we want him, probably.

"But he has got a contract with his club so I can't say more about that."

One player Houllier has ruled out any interest in is Peterborough keeper Joe Lewis and he is bemused by comments from their director of football, Barry Fry.

He said: "I was in France yesterday. I read something about Joe Lewis and the only Joe Lewis, with no disrespect to the keeper, I knew was the boxer (Joe Louis).

"Unless someone makes a hoax, I can't see anyone from the club making a bid for Joe Lewis who is probably a very good keeper.

"Is Barry Fry talking rubbish? I can tell you that no-one at the club or I have put a bid in for him."

Houllier is aware of the importance of Villa climbing out of the bottom three as quickly as possible and gives them extra incentive to dispose of Blues.

He said: "It is another incentive to do well, first of all because it is a derby and for the fans it is very important.

"But also because we don't want to stay in the position we are.

"We know that. It is a challenge and we need to get out of this position as soon as possible."

Houllier is not looking to sign a striker this month and confirmed John Carew will play a part against Alex McLeish's side after an eight-game absence.

The Norwegian international has been improving his general fitness levels after an injury-hit start to the season.

His return is timely given that Emile Heskey is suspended.

He said: "I am not looking to sign a striker. Not at the moment. I'm quite happy with Emile and John Carew did extremely well this week in training.

"I think he will be involved at some stage in the game. Maybe he will start.

"I will see, but he looked fine. Now his fitness level is better."