Pires hopes to face Rovers while Houllier sets sights on Benzema

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The Independent Online

Gerard Houllier, the Aston Villa manager, has confirmed his interest in Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema. Houllier admitted "we would sign him tomorrow" if Benzema becomes available.

The 22-year-old made a multi-million pound move from Houllier's previous club, Lyons, to Real last year but is reported to be unsettled. It would be a massive coup for Villa if Houllier could attract such a quality player.

Houllier said: "If Karim wants to come and play at Aston Villa, we would sign him tomorrow."

Benzema has won 31 caps for France but was left out of their World Cup squad after an unhappy first year at Real and has also been frozen out at the Bernabeu by new coach Jose Mourinho.

Before moving to Spain he was strongly linked with a transfer to Manchester United.

Houllier is already poised to sign former Arsenal midfielder Robert Pires in the next two to three days. Pires is a free agent following his release by Villarreal last summer.

Pires insists he is ready to make his Aston Villa debut against Blackburn on Sunday if required by Houllier. He is edging closer to completing his move to the club and will have a medical today or tomorrow.

The 37-year-old has not played since leaving Villarreal in the summer but has been training with Arsenal and is confident he could do himself justice against Rovers.

Pires said: "It's no problem for me to play for Villa on Sunday. I've been training with Arsenal for two months and I'm happy and in good form.

"I just have to see Aston Villa's medical staff at the end of the week and, if I've signed, I hope to be part of the trip to Blackburn on Sunday."

Pires added: "Nothing's done yet, nothing's been signed, but the talks with Gérard Houllier are going well. Now let's say I just have to convince the team doctor and hopefully I will sign before the end of the week.

"The medical is set for Thursday or Friday, so we'll see first what happens in the last meeting with Gérard Houllier and everyone else from Aston Villa. Things are going well, though.

"It [the deal] would be for six months or longer, but there are still some things to sort out, although I assure everyone it's not in terms of finances."

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