Villa in pole position to sign Friedel despite City interest

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Aston Villa made progress on two goalkeepers yesterday, both American and both called Brad. The senior of the two is Brad Friedel and Villa were given formal permission by Blackburn to speak to the 37-year-old about a £2m move.

Friedel was in the Midlands yesterday afternoon for talks, though the Villa manager, Martin O'Neill, was still cautious about the transfer's completion, perhaps because Manchester City, managed by Friedel's former boss at Blackburn, Mark Hughes, have made a late enquiry.

"We've been given permission to talk to the player [Friedel]," O'Neill said, "But there are still lots of things to happen. We're in the process of strengthening the squad and this is all part of our efforts to add strength in depth."

But with O'Neill offering first-team football and the club a large salary, it would be surprising if Friedel turned down Villa unless City come up with something enticing. His replacement at Ewood Park is likely to be Paul Robinson, with Tottenham expecting that deal to go through last night. The fee is £3m.

Less well-known is Friedel's compatriot Brad Guzan, a 23-year-old who plays for Chivas USA in the Major Soccer League and whom O'Neill tried to sign in January. That failed, due to work permit issues, but Guzan has since played again for the United States, including against England at Wembley in May, and Villa now have work permit hearing arranged for Guzan next Friday.

A fee has been agreed with Chivas and O'Neill said: "We're hoping that having come so close in January we can get the work permit this time around.

"I think his situation has improved, certainly on the international scene. He's been playing a lot of games for the US, important matches. All told, I think his position has improved so fingers crossed that might help, but who knows."

One player, however, who had stirred O'Neill's interest, Tottenham Hotspur's Younes Kaboul, has now receded in terms of importance for Villa, and was due to give Sunderland a decision last night on whether he will be moving to Wearside.

Sunderland are the only club to have agreed a fee with Spurs for Kaboul, though he asked for more time to consider the transfer when Portsmouth apparently made a late intervention on Thursday evening.

Villa's ability to attract the defenders O'Neill wants to recruit for the new season will be enhanced if they are able to offer European football, and this evening at Villa Park they take on Odense in the second leg of an Intertoto Cup tie. The first leg finished 2-2.

"I'm hoping that after tomorrow night we are still in the competition," O'Neill said. "It won't be easy but I am hoping our fitness will have improved from last weekend. This is a stage of the season where it is awkward, because we are far from at our best."