Villa gain Heskey but lose Laursen

Aston Villa signed Emile Heskey yesterday, but lost Martin Laursen for two months after the central defender had surgery on a knee injury, meaning that the captaincy will return to Gareth Barry.

Villa completed the signing of Heskey, who signed a three-and-a-half-year contract, from Wigan Athletic in a £3.5m deal, to reunite the England striker with his former manager at Leicester City, Martin O'Neill. The 31-year-old passed a medical and agreed personal terms yesterday afternoon. Heskey becomes O'Neill's first signing in this transfer window and is set to make his debut in Tuesday's Premier League match away to Portsmouth.

Laursen has been carrying the knee injury in recent weeks and it was decided that the player should undergo surgery. Villa were quick to stress that the problem is in his right knee, not in the left one which almost forced him to quit the game early in his Villa career.

Barry was appointed captain by O'Neill in the summer of 2006, but lost the armband when it appeared he would join Liverpool last summer. The England midfielder will lead the side out in today's FA Cup fourth-round tie away to Doncaster Rovers and until Laursen regains fitness.