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Bent spearheads new Houllier era

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Phil McNulty | 17:20 UK time, Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Harry Redknapp may once have compared Darren Bent unfavourably to his wife when judging the player's goalscoring prowess - but Aston Villa's desire to strike a £24m deal with Sunderland shows he remains one of the Premier League's most desirable commodities.

Gerard Houllier's biggest move in the transfer market since his arrival at Villa Park has been to secure the services of a forward who comes with a guarantee of goals. The deal is also an emphatic show of faith in his manager from Villa owner Randy Lerner.

The shock transfer has already been portrayed as either a panic move by a Villa hierarchy fearing relegation or a coup that has stunned their rivals and makes a spectacular statement of intent about the future under Houllier.

bentgetty595.jpgBent's statistics prove he is a valuable asset. Photo: Getty Images

Bent rebuilt his reputation at Sunderland after an unfulfilling spell at Tottenham best remembered for Redknapp's infamous "my missus could have scored that" jibe in a moment of frustration following an horrendous late miss that squandered victory against Portsmouth at White Hart Lane.

The striker was wounded by Redknapp's remark but statistics show he scored 17 goals in all competitions in his one full season at Spurs - and despite a lack of regular football in the face of fierce competition. That is a fairer reflection of his time in north London.

Bent has often been unfairly dogged with criticism about the supposed weaknesses in his all-round game, ignoring the truth that he has been one of domestic football's most reliable goalscorers at every stage of a career that has taken him to Ipswich Town, Charlton Athletic, Spurs in a £16.5m deal, Sunderland for £10m and now Villa Park in a club record £18m transfer.

Goals come with an expensive tag - and there have never been any shortage of takers willing to pay the price for Bent.

Now Houllier, confident in the total support of Lerner despite criticism from Villa Park supporters, has staked his reputation on Bent and hopes he can score the goals that can finally point his managerial career in the West Midlands in the right direction.

Villa have had no trouble creating opportunities this season and Houllier believes Bent is the striker with the record to provide the end product, with his natural pace adding another dimension to Villa's game.

Bent's struggle to establish himself with England, although rarely given regular chances to show his true worth at international level, has also increased scepticism about his class. He appeared to be coming to terms with the unique pressures at that elite level when he ruthlessly buried his first goal for his country in the Euro 2012 qualifier in Switzerland earlier this season.

Now he must carry the burden of being Villa's record signing as well as the responsibility of being the symbol of Houllier's new era.

And one man who believes Bent's arrival is something for Villa fans to relish is former manager Graham Taylor, who told me: "He is a goalscorer. People can question whether he is an international footballer, as perhaps Fabio Capello has at times, but what you cannot question is this boy's goalscoring record at club level.

"The only thing that will matter to Gerard Houllier is whether he scores goals at club level. The answer to that is 'yes'. It is also another sign of the support Randy Lerner is giving Gerard and a sign to the Villa supporters that they will see things change at the club if the manager is given time.

"Gerard has also brought in Jean Makoun from Lyon, a player he obviously knows well. However well Martin O'Neill did, it seemed that the scouting system focused on Great Britain. The net will be spread much wider than that under Gerard.

Gerard HoullierHoullier needs time, says Graham Taylor. Photo: Getty Images

"Bent takes chances and scores goals - the most important thing in the game. He is quick, a finisher and I think it is a good signing for Villa. People may talk about it being a panic measure and look at an expensive price tag but the people who score you the goals will always carry the most expensive prices. I don't think this can be seen as a panic buy.

"The deal certainly came as a surprise to me as well as everybody else. You do well to keep a transfer of that size quiet in this day and age but Villa have done it.

"Villa have John Carew and Gabriel Agbonlahor but this boy is in a different class to those two as a regular scorer. Bent's past history tells you that more chances are converted with him in the side."

Taylor's assertion is supported by the evidence of Bent's Sunderland career, which began when he moved to The Stadium Of Light in August 2009. He scored 25 goals last season and added another 11 this term before his final game for the club in the north-east derby against Newcastle United on Sunday.

And since 2005 Bent, has scored 81 league goals, with only Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Chelsea's Didier Drogba ahead of him in the scoring charts, both with 82.

Bent scored 32 goals in 58 Premier League games on Wearside - an outstanding return for a striker many are too quick to label "limited" - while his speed and direct approach became established hallmarks of Steve Bruce's side.

"The signing of Bent is, as I have said, a sign that things will change under Gerard," added Taylor. "If fans give the manager time, Villa will change in a way that will leave most supporters pleased.

"If I was a Villa fan, I would be feeling much happier after the last few days, with Makoun coming in and now Darren Bent. The signings will give the club a great lift and also starts to put Gerard's stamp on the team.

"I always think you need to give a manager three years at a club before he can say 'this is my team' - and the signing of Bent is the first part of Gerard creating his own team."

Some may say Bent has gambled by dropping down the Premier League to join Villa and that Houllier has taken a punt by splashing out so much on one player - but the striker's goalscoring record makes him a safe bet as a finisher.

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  • Comment number 1.

    SAFC must be rolling on the floor laughing..

  • Comment number 2.

    Great bit of bussiness getting that much money in Owen Muntari and N'Zogbia are my tips.

  • Comment number 3.

    I wonder if this £18m expenditure will be offset by the £18m sale of Ashley Young?

  • Comment number 4.

    Very good buy - not sure about the price tag though.

  • Comment number 5.

    Will Keane go to Sunderland? Bent is a big loss, but if they could buy Keane for £6m and Welbeck for £12m does that make it good business? Would you swap those two for Bent or not?

  • Comment number 6.

    Good deal all round I guess - good cash for Sunderland and just what we need at Villa. And I think this deal was offset by the 24 million received for Milner in the summer which was never spent.

  • Comment number 7.

    Phil, you seem to be filling your blogs with quotes from experts (in this case Graham Taylor, so not an expert). Not slagging off are we? ;-)

    Seriously though, good signing for Villa! Bent's goal ratio is excellent and with the supply he'll get from Albrighton, who I personally think is great, and Ashley Young (Villa fans, do you think he will stay?) I'm sure he'll be knocking in plenty of goals!

    Another question for the Villa fans: What's wrong with Villa? From what I can tell they have a decent team! Certainly not a team which should be in the relegation zone. Keen to know your thoughts.

  • Comment number 8.

    Ridiculous deal!!

    He plays well in poor teams when the side (1) can be built around him and (2) plays on the counter attack due to the opposition having all the ball. Very quick and a good finisher but as soon as he's asked to do something more than run on to balls which are lumped over the top then he struggles...its why he failed at Spurs and why he's been found out recently at Sunderland when they've been doing better

    He'll keep Villa up as they're a poor team who can play on the break with him and Young etc so its a question of what is premiership survival worth. But as soon as villa became half decent and start to dominate possession again, he'll struggle again

  • Comment number 9.

    Really makes me question Bent's ambition this move. Ok so Villa, it can be argued, are a bigger club but doubt this makes Capello more likely to pick him. I'll stick my kneck out and say that I think the only winners in this move will be Sunderland. And Phil, why is it that half you blogs consist of quotations?

  • Comment number 10.

    He's the missing link - as it says in the article Villa haven't had a decent striker since Angel's one season in 2004! We have great wingers in Young, Downing, and Albrighton (yes, they'll stay for this season at least!) who provide chance after chance and we just don't score.

    If you could've given me one realistic signing this winter only one name would've come up, Darren Bent, only everyone thought it wasn't realistic! £24m is peanuts if he scores goals... if we finish say 8th instead of 18th thats £5m not to mention the £30m saved by not being relegated! So in actual fact Bent could make us a profit of at least £6m.

  • Comment number 11.

    Good article, Phil. No one would turn their nose up if Defoe went for that money. Bent has a better record than Defoe in the Premiership, and has always played for weaker teams.

    People go on about 'international class', but Villa won't care if Bent doesn't score for England. Also, he's hardly been given a chance. It took Defoe 18 caps to get his second goal for England. Way too early to write Bent off already. His league performances meant he should've gone to both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

  • Comment number 12.

    Bent has proven his quality in the Premiership so it is a good signing for Villa, especially as one of their main weaknesses seems to be upfront with no-one you'd back to get 20 a season. Now they have that man in Bent, though the price tag seems to be quite high. All in all though i think it'll be good business and he'll do well for Villa. I personally have always liked the lad, he may be lacking in a few areas technique wise and not be the best all-round striker, but he does get the goals. I think England should give him more of an opportunity, especially since Rooney can't seem to score for love nor money at the moment.

    As for Sunderland, they could struggle to find someone who'll be as regular a scorer as Bent has, though Gyan looks like a great signing and once he really settles in, could be that man. They've got the money to reinvest now, i reckon Keane would be a good addition, especially since he has links with Quinn as well. They'll also step up their moves for N'Zogbia now, so all is not lost for the black cats yet this season.

  • Comment number 13.

    wow. from 6th place team to the 17th. this just screams of money, money, money. no doubt he is a great signing though.

  • Comment number 14.

    Spurs in a £16.5m deal,
    Sunderland for £10m
    Villa Park in a club record £18m transfer.


    No loyalty, just picks up a new deal every couple of years to feather his own nest, typical prem footballer and expensive at that.

  • Comment number 15.

    Sell Downing now, put Ashley back on the left wing, with Albrighton on the right.


    This team should stir things up, a mixture of young and experienced. NRC and Petrov can make way eventually for Gardner and Bannon. Get Given now, and I think we can go all the way up!

  • Comment number 16.

    He puts the ball in the back of the net, simple as that. Very good business from Villa. If he keep them in the league, that will repay the whole 18 million and then some. Funnily enough I was talking about villa needing someone like Bent the other day. They have a decent squad, but just lack a goal scorer.

  • Comment number 17.

    18 million plus 6 million is ridiculous. For that I would be hoping for a world class player.

  • Comment number 18.

    When the news of this deal first came through, I laughed and dismissed it as empty speculation. Now it's been completed, I'm nigh-on speechless.

    James Milner, a mediocre-to-good English midfielder: £24m.

    Darren Bent, a sometimes good striker struggling on the fringes of the England team: £24m.

    Mesut Oezil, a fantastic, skilled midfielder being compared to Zidane and Messi: £15m.

    Rafael Van Der Vaart: Another skilled midfielder and attacker, and a World Cup finalist: £8m

    Seriously, has the Premier League lost all sense of proportion with regards to English players?! Mediocre players do the rounds at clubs just to stave off relegation, teams wave blank cheques without actually comprehending how much a player is worth in the grand scheme of things, and then they wonder why on Earth they end up in the financial mire. Mark my words, if Bent isn't a success, the pressure will pile on Houllier - and why? Was it him that really valued Bent at £24m?! Farce.

    Also this raises questions over Randy Lerner. What, so he wasn't prepared to spend anything in the summer for O'Neil, but suddenly he's prepared to bend over backwards and lavish money at a sometimes strong, sometimes mediocre striker, who as SpursFan said, is often found to be limited?

    All the more reason why I'm growing fed up of the Premier League.

  • Comment number 19.

    Bent will be playing in the Championship next season. An idiotic move for him driven 100% by money and 0% ambition!

  • Comment number 20.

    As far as I'm concerned, Kevin Phillips hit the nail on the head when he suggested Bent's motives were purely financial. Bent, rightly, claimed his move away from Spurs was motivated by the need to play regular first-team football. He got that (and then no doubt a wage hike anyway) - now he wants even more money. Sunderland are better positioned to break into Europe this year, and I imagine the next, so him coming out and claiming it is to do with anything other than money would be a disgrace.

  • Comment number 21.

    That's the same price as Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba and Wayne Rooney.

  • Comment number 22.

    18 million for an English reserve - 'OMG'

    This just shows how shockingly inflated the EPL really is. If this boy was a balkan or German he would maybe of cost a third. But because he is 'ENGLISH', the price tag explodes. What is wrong with you lot?

    If Ozil costs 12-13 million, this by default makes bent bettet than him. Seriously, I think Villa might be looking back on this deal the same way that Boro are now looking at the Alves deal.

    Bent had his crack at the big time with Spurs.


  • Comment number 23.

    Firstly, WOW! I am shocked Villa have made such a big offer for Bent, I only hope he will score 25+ goals a season. As a villa fan, i think he will thrive at villa park with our wingers. But i reckon we will lose Ashley Young soon, which is not a surprise. I reckon villa will stay up now more then ever. Only time will tell if Bent can live up to the price tag.

  • Comment number 24.

    We've had yorke milner barry tapped up over the years and had to accept it stop crying and move on it happens end off players leaving for money to bigger so called clubs, and were not finished spending yet how many others can splash out on 30 mill plus in january the real fans know Villa's position and status at the minute is a joke and still see us as a top six team these one season wonders like blackpool and wba will be down again if not this season definitely next as the prem has been a crazy season this year tbh

  • Comment number 25.

    Can't help but think why Randy Lerner has given Houllier - who showed at Liverpool he can't be trusted with big bucks - £25m to spend this week on a team that has gone downhill, when O Neill was asking for less in the summer to put the finishing touches on a team that was very nearly in the Champions League the last two years. Odd, very odd indeed.

  • Comment number 26.

    It seems that non Villa fans think it is a silly deal for an overrated player, and they assume he can only have moved for the money. Yet, Villa fans are delighted to get a player who pretty much guarantees 20+ goals per season.

    For me he is a great signing. Forget the price, just look at the player. He has a track record second only to Rooney and Drogba, easily a better goalscorer than Defoe (and anyone else in the Spurs team). Spurs fans who I work with were gutted when he left for Sunderland and they all think he will be a massive hit for Villa. But that won't stop the sour grapes from other fans.


  • Comment number 27.

    "with his natural pace adding another dimension to Villa's game."

    really? isnt that all villa have with regards to their two main attacking outlets, agbonlahor and young? although downing is having an okay season, and leads the scoring charts, but maybe that is pretty damning in itself. i expect this could be a flop. and an expensive one. either way, i doubt he'll justify the price tag. happy for him to prove me wrong though.

  • Comment number 28.


    It's not sour grapes. It's utter shock at the comical price.

  • Comment number 29.

    Bent is a good player who has a proven track record of scoring goals in the prem.

    He is not a great player though and when he does not score he does nothing for the team.

    For spurs we never really played one up front so he never really fitted in. I think if villa play him he must play as the sole striker to get the best out of him.

    Also not sure about his mental strength as when harry said that remark when he missed the sitter he took it very badly and moaned about it after he left spurs so to me he doesn't seem to enjoy the banter and maybe needs to man up abit.

    I would say that 18 million is well over the odds for him but I suppose if villa stay up (which they should do anyway before they got him) then the money will not all be lost.

  • Comment number 30.

    Adam WBF (comment 18)

    Your tirade against English players is deeply unfair: if you're going to compare Milner to Van der Vaart, then compare the fees for Phil Jagielka to Jean Alain Boumsong; Wayne Rooney to Robinho; Adam Johnson to Ryan Babel... then see if English players look overpriced compared to foreign equivalents.

    Truth is, an overpriced signing is an overpriced signing, regardless of nationality. Bent's good, but he's £8-10m good. This is an overpriced transfer.

  • Comment number 31.

    dabos83 - a good comparison with Defoe, not forgetting that Bent has often played up front on his own. Goals wherever he has been. Forget the fee, now guaranteed safety.

    just a moot point - Switzerland is not the "elite" level you state. Mid table premier league at best (as are most international opposition, certainly in qualifying stages). Compare that with the so-called "big four" here and you will find Bent's record very good. A regular scorer against them. Again a favourable comparison to Defoe here.

  • Comment number 32.

    Firstly I don't understand why he has moved, Sunderland seem to be improving at a faster rate than Villa who seemed to have stopped completely in recent seasons. I'm not sure how much more he will be paid but it surely can't be that much can it?

    Secondly I think this is a bad move for Villa, Bent does not seem to do well with competition as it destroys his confidence I think. Has always done better in a smaller pond, and may have left Sunderland due to Wellbeck and Gyan taking his opportunities. Also he is a player who dominates all the goalscoring of a team, you are not going to score unless he does and I don't think it is good for a team to rely on one player like that when you are at the top level as it is easier to stop.

  • Comment number 33.


    What CoalitionoftheWilting said. I've no doubt Bent is a decent enough player, but a) surely he was in a better position this season with Sunderland, getting the first team football he craved, and b) I've still yet to see anyone justifying his price tag. For £24m I would expect a strong international talent, maybe not world-class, but perhaps international calibre.

  • Comment number 34.

    Interesting, Phil. Three years ago, you wrote a post ridiculing the £16m Spurs paid for Bent, under the heading "Is Bent worth more than Henry?" [

    Standout quotes:
    "It is also a fact that Spurs have paid too much. Sorry, but Bent is simply not a £16.5m player."
    "This deal is a tribute to the negotiating skills of Charlton Athletic, who really have dragged every last penny out of their friends from White Hart Lane."
    "As a goalscorer, I would take Defoe ahead of Bent every time - and it is a safe bet there will be a few Premiership managers who agree."

    and finally...

    "Jol clearly thinks differently and I will happily bow to his superior knowledge if Bent proves worth this astonishing amount of money."

    Given that Bent has just gone for up to £24m, do you now bow to Jol's superior knowledge?

  • Comment number 35.

    @15. Craig Gardner plays for Birmingham now.

    With regards to Bent, scores goals not sure if he is worth 18-24 million though. Strange move for me from Bent's point of view with the possibility of Europe next season at Sunderland Will be interesting to see who Sunderland get in now.

  • Comment number 36.

    I love this "guaranteed 20 goals a season tag".

    Exactly how many times has he achieved it?

  • Comment number 37.

    The price is on the stupid side, but I think it's less to do with him being English and more to do with the fact he's proven he can score goals in the Prem, it's January, we are dicing with relegation, and Carew and Gabby have notched up 0 goals between them.

    His track record makes him a much better bet than bringing in a player from another league, who may take time to adapt and who's success in another league won't definitely translate to the Premiership. Veron, anyone?

    If he scores the goals that keep us up the price will be irrelevant. If...

  • Comment number 38.


    You're definately right. Those were the first examples I could think of in that comment, and it was probably unwise of me to simply put it down to English players in particular being overpriced. There is, certainly, a trend though for players commanding monstrous fees well above their actual skill level. Wasn't Joe Hart very cheap too when he originally arrived at Man City? But you are right, overpriced is overpriced no matter what the nationality.

  • Comment number 39.

    He's a seriously underrated player and IS worth £18 million. 25 goals in a season and idiot Capello leaves him out of the WC. This may also be Carew's cue to pop out the door...

  • Comment number 40.

    Seems to me that Houllier is getting a little more attack minded in his old age. He needs a good central defender to lead the backline and perhaps he should try to try Gurzan a little more. Friedel is good, but the youngster needs to be brought on. I'd play him in the cup and a few more matches.

    Those who go on about money in the Premier League need to remember that the club owners are protecting massive investments and staying up is an important part of it.

  • Comment number 41.

    Darren Bent has scored 20 league goals in one season.

    He's been playing professional football for ten years.

  • Comment number 42.

    As a Villa fan I think this is a good buy and am relieved that Houlier finally recognised we need a proven goal scorer. I think we paid over the top and that will add to the pressure to Bent. I just hope he can handle it better than Stan Collymore, Savo Milosovic or the mighty Bosco Balaban.

    I just hope this does not mean that we are about to sell Ashley Young, or more importnatly Stewart Downing; if we are going to compete we need to start building a squad around these players.

    Finally, never thought I would feel sorry for Steve Bruce but you have to. I think Bruce and Niall Quinn are doing a fantastic job (they resurected Bent) at Sunderland and they fans second to none. I have every sympathy with their fans and hope they finish top 6 this season.

  • Comment number 43.

    @Adam WBF

    Good post

    Apparently Pompey are looking at £35k to get Tal Ben-Haim back on loan the championship is as delussional at the prem ;-(

  • Comment number 44.

    @35. Talking about Craig's younger brother Gary, a very promising reserve player, touted to be an England player by all that work with him!

  • Comment number 45.

    @35 juanhernandez

    I think he means Gardner's younger brother who seems to be developing into a very decent player from what I have seen! And I'm an arsenal lad!

  • Comment number 46.

    Hi own view is that £18m (or maybe eventually £24m) is still over-priced for Bent but as Graham Taylor says the men who score the goals carry the top prices and he has done it as domestic level. Luckily it's not my money!

    It is certainly a great show of faith in Gerard Houllier by Randy Lerner.

    Sunderland fans, manager Steve Bruce says: "The players, our supporters and the club as a whole have every right to feel massively let down."

    Do you feel massively let down? Is Bruce right to feel massively let down or is this just the way of the world in football now?

    Let me know your thoughts.

  • Comment number 47.

    Good signing I think. Villa's striking options aren't that great at the moment and Bent is exactly what they are lacking: a natural goalscorer to do the most important thing in football, put the ball in the back of the net. I'd be surprised if Bent doesn't get double figures before the end of the season. Price is very steep but might just be worth it.

    #25 makes a very good point, really strange that Lerner didn't have transfer money for a manager who consistently finished top six, but when a new manager turns largely the same bunch of players into serious relegation candidates he does. A fine example of a manager being rewarded for failure.

    One thing you ignored Phil - why precisely did Bent put in a transfer request at Sunderland? I've seen guys like Kevin Philips claim it was only for the money but I can't see Villa paying him that much more.

  • Comment number 48.

    As a Villa fan I do think he is much too expensive, however I'm also pretty sure his signing will keep us in the Premier League. I would rather the owner backed the man who gave us the best points haul for 10+ years than the one who has us two points off bottom but as a fan one has no control over those issues.

    I fully expect more changes to take place in the near future as the team will need re-shaping to make Bent the fulcrum of the team. How many of those players will be from the vaunted overseas market? Thus far 90% of our spending in the Houllier era has gone on an above average English player -- something that we were told would never happen again :p

  • Comment number 49.

    @ #41
    Drogba has only scored over 20 league goals in a season twice in his career, Ronney only once, and they play for the two biggest clubs in england at the moment. They'll recieve more chances over a season than Bent as they play for clubs with greater creativity than those Bent has played for, no disrespect to the teams he has been playing for. Maybe he's not 20 goals a season, but he'll be bang close to that mark more often than not. 81 goals to Rooney and Drogba's 82 since 2005, despite his not so great spell at Spurs, show he is a proven goalscorer in the Premiership.

  • Comment number 50.

    this is crazy, bent said so often, that sunderland afc satisfy his footballering needs and is a perfect club for him and now, he moves to lowly aston villa, a football club with no purpose for so much money and villa would have been better of signing kevin davis for 10 million or steve morison of millwalll fc for a smaller fee of 5 million. bent is not bettter than davis, keane and morison altogether, he was always an overrated player, who loves himself to much. x

  • Comment number 51.

    Ozil only had a year left on his contract and VDV wasn't wanted by Real - that's why they were cheap(er). You can't make comparisons.

    Basically as I understand it the consensus is it's a good deal if he plays well (i.e. scores goals) but not if he doesn't. Well yeah, that'd make sense.

    Just gotta wait and see I guess. And @Larry - you could throw Delph in there too but I'd like to see one more defender in that team personally.

    I can see Villa finishing between 8th and 12th now. Couldn't before.

  • Comment number 52.

    My worry about Bent is he aint much good when he is not scoring goals. For one Bent is not a natural target man, he holds the ball up poorly and is not special at linking up the play.

    I don't doubt is scoring record, its his effectiveness when not scoring.

  • Comment number 53.

    The media love tired old cliches like this player guarantees you 20 league goals a season! I remember it always used to be said about Michael Owen, and he has never in his career managed it!

  • Comment number 54.

    Just wanted to clear something up - it's not that Lerner said O'Neill wasn't going to be backed - he just said he had to reduce the wage bill first! O'Neill wasn't prepared to do that and walked... we didn't fire him, he walked.
    Now, Houllier has sent Sidwell on loan, Warnock and Carew look to be going too, and Lerner has given him money to spend! 81% of turnover on wages isn't feasible and O'Neill couldn't handle that simple fact!

  • Comment number 55.

    Fair play Phil, I concur about over-pricing Bent. I think a first step to making sense of striker transfer fees would be: find the cost of players in top scorers' charts for the last 5-odd years. Then calculate cost per goal. It may just be the case that the Prem transfer market has such ridiculous inflation that Bent's signing makes sense in the current market. Just not to any of us.

  • Comment number 56.

    Statistically Bent is a great player but watch him play and he is an average/good player.

    I would rather watch how good a player is then go by statistics and for me 18 million I reckon you could of got a much better player or maybe even 3 or 4 good players.

  • Comment number 57.

    "5. At 5:48pm on 18 Jan 2011, Rob wrote:
    Will Keane go to Sunderland? Bent is a big loss, but if they could buy Keane for £6m and Welbeck for £12m does that make it good business? Would you swap those two for Bent or not?


    Sunderland won't get Welbeck for 12 million. Try minimum 20...

  • Comment number 58.

    cant help but feel this is a big risk for bent. he was not good at spurs. now with another big money move on his back if he doesn't start well his confidence could be shattered . can't help but feel he should have stayed put

  • Comment number 59.

    Adam WBF - Great point of view.

    But in essence this echo's everything thats wrong with British football.

    Villa do not dictate the price of a player, the selling club, the player and the players agent are the drives. Villa's only decision is "if" to pay the price.

    This is made worse for those clubs that have money, the price immediately inflates.

  • Comment number 60.

    An astonishing amount of money for a player who never has and never will be anywhere near top class.

  • Comment number 61.

    Just to add to my comment on Villa paying over the odds for Bent...I do think the price is excessive, but obviously if they feel he will score the goals to keep them in the Premier League it is a price worth paying. This makes it understandable and it also acts as a real statement of intent by the club.

    Let's hear more from Sunderland fans too - really interested in your take on this deal.

  • Comment number 62.

    £10m they bought him.
    Up to £24m they're selling him.
    Bruce's done it again in transfer market.

  • Comment number 63.

    Anyone got the statistics that show what % of goals Bent score are from the penalty spot?

  • Comment number 64.

    24 Million for a man who struggles to get in the England squad?

    This just goes to show that the Premier League and English football in general is totally out of touch with reality and living in its own little bubble.

  • Comment number 65.

    All the talk about the price being over the top is laughable. The statistics are there...only surpassed by rooney and drogba in the last 5 years of the premier league...and thats without the delivery from ash young,downing and albrighton!!

  • Comment number 66.

    An inflated price, but if he scores goals then the Villa fans wont care. I hope Sundeland spend the money wisely and get in a good replacement for next season and don't lose their stride in the league.

    Third highest prem scorer in the last 5 seasons I hear told. Worth coughing up a few quid.

    It does make you wonder whether Villa would be in such a mess if Randy had put the money up in the Summer for MON.

  • Comment number 67.

    #1 - said it all there, really. What an awful bit of business by Villa. An overrated, technically poor striker, whose price happens to be bumped up because of the seal on the front of his passport. It's no wonder Premier League managers look elsewhere for signings if it costs that much to buy someone so mediocre.

  • Comment number 68.

    This bit of transfer business is proof that a) the transfer market is crazy and b) Randy Lerner has more money than sense. If Bent is worth £24m then what price are good players like Torres and Tevez going to fetch? £50m-£60m?

    I can't blame Sunderland for taking the money at all, indeed i think most clubs would have snapped their hands off for that sort of deal....great business. I think they might actually use that money to invest in Welbeck (which is a shame as i think he has a future at OT) and maybe buy in another striker (maybe even scupper Liverpools attempts to get Suarez).

    Dear Mr Lerner, if you are reading this, please, please come in with a £20m bid for Michael Carrick - he is an international class midfield player, with a proven track record....

  • Comment number 69.

    The Whinger - very true. Agents are the scourge of the game concurrently. Look at the fracas with Tevez, Man City and Joorabchian. I'm willing to bet that the only reason Tevez and Man City are still together, and that Man City were willing to keep him, was that it transpired that Joorabchian was the one orchestrating a move/pay rise, not Tevez himself. If anyone has any info to the contrary, do say so, I might be completly wrong on that.

    Teams have started slapping huge price tags on players just to scare off other teams - can't remember which team it was, but I remember being stunned when a certain team, might have been Everton, slapped a £20m price tag on quite an average defender, just to stop people from pinching him.

    And I take the point about Oezil's contract and VDV's falling out at Madrid, but I'm saying there's still got to be a certain valuation for a player, as in, a club wouldn't just take the first offer on the table if it was ridiculously low, even if they had a year left on contract.

    The Premier League is in danger of eating itself with the epic financial overtures spent in sponsorship, TV money, gate money (and therefore hyperinflated ticket prices), transfers, salaries etc...wonder when the ultimate tipping point will come. I'm really hoping that the FIFA Fair Play rules come in and actually make a difference, and that clubs won't be able to worm out of it.

  • Comment number 70.

    Always enjoy reading your articles Phil, so much football journalism these days seems to be surrounded in motives and slanting the real story.

    Hopefully we can write this last year off - it has been absolutely terrible from our point of view since Wembley and our drop in league form, missing out on a CL place. This is the start of our re-birth.

    Watch out Spurs and Lpool, I fully expect Villa to be challenging for 6th place and upwards next season with the squad we are beginning to build. Jean Makoun should prove to be a fine aquisition, we have been dying for someone to fill Milner's boots in the CM energy department. (By the way Jimmy, if you're reading, we know you made a mistake. Sitting on the bench is not right for a player of your talents. We'll have you back.)

    Looking forward to Gabby and Darren forging the deadliest partnership the Prem has ever seen. Lightening pace, strength, and now a deadly snipers finish. As long as we can hold on to Ash and Downing on the wings, we will be a force to be reckoned with for many years.

    Here's to some improved results Mr.Houllier!

  • Comment number 71.

    There are some VERY good points made in this blog, (not all in the opening post).

    First of all, although I am no Darren Bent fan, there is absolutely no doubt at all that he is very very very good at putting the ball in the back of the net. The jury still seems to be out on what else he has to offer, but exactly what do you want from your striker? In any case, from my Spurs fan viewpoint, I thought that Sunderland have looked pretty impressive going forwad recently. I love the look of Gyan and Wellbeck looks quality and Bent seems to just slot the ball home as he has always done.

    For those Spurs fans who do not like him and were glad to see the back of him at Spurs, are you aware that he scored 18 goals in 60 appearances for us, (almost 1 in 3), when a great many of those appearances were made from the bench.

    If I am Steve Bruce I think I would be.... well both gutted and excited all at the same time. While I think Gyan is quality, Wellbeck is injured and it remains to be seen if Fergie will let him go at the end of the season and what with he do then with just 1 senior striker and a pile if money? This sort of money is a lot to a club like Sunderland though and I think they would have been mad not to accept it.

    The transfer request and then the deal being done so quickly does raise questions about tapping up though doesn't it? (or am I just suspicious)?

    From a Villa point of view.... well I am absolutely astonished to be honest. Houllier was one of those mentioned recently with being on the verge of the sack, and I am sure that there were in-squad issues with both Collins and Dunne both being left out when fit under Houllier, (despite the fact that there were few other options). If this is indeed the spending of the Millner money, (and not advance spending from ther sale of Downing and/or Young), then it might just be an astute piece of business.

    It is the one area that Villa are really lacking and Bent must look at the creative players in the team and just rub his hand with glee.





    That's a bloomin decent squad.

    I know that Villa have been struggling because they have not been scoring enough goals, and also because they have been often playing youngsters, (Albrighton, Bannon, Clark, Delfounso), but there is also some decent experience in that squad.

    It just remains to be seen if this has been paid for by the Milner money or whether others will have to leave to pay for it.

  • Comment number 72.

    Simple economics, if Bent keeps Villa up, then he is worth it, compared to what would happen should they get relegated.

    He is a proven Premier league goal scorer unlike many others and from Villa's point of view, though expensive would be more of a safer bet than a goal scorer from other European leagues who may or may not make it in the premier league, they don't have time to gamble. With the quality of the balls from Albrighton, Young, Downing then he should be fine (as long as injury free).

    Whatever happened to Agbonlahor, after some promise in previous years.

  • Comment number 73.

    81 goals in 5 years is decent. Probably the fee is a little inflated because of the timing but 18 million for a 24 year old who does score goals is not the worst buy of the season by a wide margin. He is the missing piece for Aston Villa who have the approach players to provide chances but not the finishers. A forward 3 of Agbonlahor, Young and Bent will improve Villa's fortunes IMO.

    Also, he is unfortunate not to get more England opportunities. Its only because of Crouch's absurd form for England that he misses out. As for Sunderland they could do worse than go for a loan signing of Benzema. And Fraizer Campbell is returning soon and he was doing a great job before his injury.

  • Comment number 74.

    £24m... that's near to what Real Madrid paid for a superb player like Di María, an Argentine International with years and years ahead of him.

    You just have to Lol at this price.

  • Comment number 75.

    SpursFan, absolutely spot on. anyone who actually knows anything about football knows goals are not everything. i hate the lazy comparison to rooney and drogba. look at how many medals rooney and drogba have won. look at how many bent has won. goals are not everything. that is why bent has never played at a top side. ask any spurs fan (and probably sunderland fans now): all he can do is run onto a hollywood pass and shoot. no first touch, no second touch, no teamwork, no hold up play (ball literally bounces off his knees, his backside, anywhere but his foot - once i saw his first touch go 30ft up in the air from a pass along the ground). no loss to sunderland, amazing business for them. unlucky villa.

  • Comment number 76.

    A question for Phil McNulty and Graham Taylor... what of loyalty then??!! What about the kids who support Sunderland who wear shirts with Bent's name and the number 11 on the back? As a Sunderland supporter, I'm disgusted with Bent over this but I'm not surprised and I don't think our club needs any symapthy (it's the way football is now... it has happened to other clubs before and it will in the future - they ALL need to stop paying these players the obscene amounts that they do)... we are better off without him if this is how he thinks he should behave. McNulty and Taylor, in overlooking Bent's greed, show they are as remote from reality as he is.

  • Comment number 77.

    Can't help but wonder whether this a sidestep for Bent, leaving a club seemingly on the up in the top half of the table for one which is a shadow of its former self. Forget the big money, wouldn't his England future be better served by either staying put or possibly joining the likes of Tottenham for example? I know his name was certainly linked with some of the more successful clubs.

  • Comment number 78.

    #72 I'll be honest I never really rated Agbonlahor as a finisher. I remember he was linked with us a couple of seasons back and even then I felt his finishing was patchy at best. He's a great striker when he has some space to run into but not really up to much when space is tight. Also I think he is lacking the blistering acceleration he had a year or so back - maybe its just my perception, not sure.

    Good transfer for Villa. Sunderland have a puzzle to solve but have the money to spend. Have to admit I would be gutted if we made the mistake of letting Welbeck go, whatever the fee.

  • Comment number 79.

    Yes I thought about Delph and Hogg too, but I purposely only had Dunne as a centre half, because Clark and Walker are both tall and quick, with Makoun to mop up in front of them. Ashley and Marc both back-track and defend brilliantly. Villa's problems in defence lately, is that Collins and Dunne are constantly being 'split' by ground passes, or having hard, low crosses behind them from the wings. I think a combination of any two of Bannon/Gardner/Delph/Hogg/NRC or Petrov, along with Makoun, would protect the defence as well as support the wingers (who in turn would support them). Young and Albrighton will give great service to Bent and Gabby.

    Downing, even though he is our leading goalscorer at present, has 'confused' our pattern of play. He does not know whether he is better on the left or right (and Young is better than him on both), and GH is crazily playing him in a central position with Gabby on the left wing!! Downing 'bottles' tackles, and is too slow to pick a forward pass (much like Petrov). Sell him on, and get some money back to go and get Shay Given.

  • Comment number 80.

    N.B. Forget tottenham. We all know what happened there. But you get my point.

  • Comment number 81.

    Maybe this signing is softening the blow possibly for Youngs departure?

    Just thought id throw that in there for laughs

  • Comment number 82.

    oh, and jamie @ 70, really? REALLY? gabby is the most headless chicken in the premiership. every wondered why no one ever bids for him? you'll soon find out about bent when he misses a sitter at the most crucial time. downing is massively overrated. ashley young, maybe, but no proof in pudding yet. and please don't group you and liverpool with spurs. you're miles off us. we may not be title material, as some would have you believe, but you really are miles off us. come back when you have at least one quality player in each position, although i will accept we don't have a single good striker. do you want crouch for £25m?

  • Comment number 83.

    @75 hugh spurling

    " i hate the lazy comparison to rooney and drogba. look at how many medals rooney and drogba have won. look at how many bent has won. goals are not everything"

    The irony! That's quite a silly comment considering that you call the comparison to rooney and drogba's scoring record lazy, yet you base your judgement on how many medals they have won compared to Bent!!! Bent has played for Ipswich, Charlton, Spurs and Sunderland! Obviously Rooney and Drogba who play for teams who can spend millions and have by far a better overall squad, have won more medals! If anything, it makes Bent's goalscoring record even more impressive than theirs!

  • Comment number 84.

    RE #61:


    as a Sunderland fan I'm pretty ambivalent about this deal. Benty did a great job for us last season, but as some have said above, he did seem to be suffering from a dip in form since Gyan and Welbeck arrived - he only seems to work as the focus of a counter-attacking side. Now that we're a bit more decent in all-round attacking, and with the astronomical sum offered (I'd pay £12m for him, max), I think it's a pretty healthy bit of business - 18 months, 40-odd (some very odd) goals, and £8-14m profit. What's not to like? Can't say I didn't love having probably our most potent attack since the glory days of Quinn and Phillips, but if Bruce re-invests this money in 2 or 3 more genuinely class squad players I'd say we've done pretty well out of it. Sunderland's only worry for me is the size of our squad, not the quality of our players. Here's hoping we can ask uncle Alex to keep Welbeck, and carry on the good work with our 2 excellent strikers (3 once Campbell comes back and picks up some form).

  • Comment number 85.

    Haha - about the transfer links to Agbonlahor. The guy is Villa through and through, he recently declared he'll play in goal for us if he has to. His form this season has been admittedly poor, but he's been plagued by injury and usually in an unfamilar position. He'll explode next season, especially if he loses a bit of muscle.

  • Comment number 86.

    PS - on loyalty - probably not best to get a proven mercenary on the back of your shirt in the first place.

  • Comment number 87.

    When you look purely at his goalscoring record, then yes, he is a fantastic buy, but I actually thought you should've gone deeper than that.

    You say goals come with a price tag, but why have you ignored the fact that Darren Bent has one measly assist in his time at Sunderland, playing striker isn't just about scoring goals, it's also about how you bring other players into the game, which is a major weakness in Bent's game.

    In the last 5 years, he has played a 186 premier league matches, and has scored 81 goals, of which 15 were penalties.

    So from open play he's scored 66 goals in a 186 premier league matches.

    Worth up to £24m? Not for me, especially considering his lack of work rate, poor link up play, poor attitude and at times, his erratic finishing.

    Poor deal for Villa, great deal for Sunderland.

  • Comment number 88.

    It reminds me very much of what SB did with Heskey. A striker short of belief & confidence was rejuvenated at Wigan then sold in Villa! He also turned Palacios & Valencia into world-class players and sold them to massive clubs for a fortune. It is clearly one of his many talents as a manager, though there is now the headache of trying to cart in a quality replacement.

  • Comment number 89.

    Phil Numpty, do you feel sorry for Martin O'Neil?

    Just imagine the team VILLA could of fielded if they had held on to Barry, Milner and the addition of Bent.


  • Comment number 90.

    Instead of spanking 24M on a single player half way through the season, which amounts to no more than a panic buy and a desperate attempt by the board to show their faith in Houllier, why couldn't Randy have agreed to make this amount of money available to O'Neil before the season started, who would have spent it wisely on 2 or 3 quality players to strengthen the squad and give us that extra impetus we were lacking to challenge for a CL position. Perhaps then we wouldn't be in this mess we are in.

    I agree with the earlier comment that Sunderland must be LTAO all the way to the bank!

  • Comment number 91.

    As a Sunderland fan I have to say I'm bitterly disappointed with all of this, but its not really the fact that he's gone, it's the manner in which he's gone.

    In all honesty he was brilliant for the first 14 months, but since he came back from injury he's been useless, and he's been outshined by Gyan and Welbeck around him. There's no point in keeping a player who is no longer contributing (I'd love to see his shots:goals ratio since november), so to get £24 million for such a player is a very good deal.

    What has really upset me is his timing. He played the whole 'I'm very grateful to Sunderland for everything' act very well. But to leave us midway through January with only one fit striker and only two weeks to find a replacement shows he had no respect for us whatsoever. Thats what hurts the most.

    No player is bigger than the club however, so goodbye Darren, and you'd better hope that this risky decision doesn't come back to haunt you!

  • Comment number 92.

    In fairness to Darren Bent. It is almost impossible to think of any English player transferred for over £5 million who is value for money! Over priced and over rated the lot of them! As a Liverpool fan the last English player we purhased who was any good was John Barnes!

  • Comment number 93.

    Yes I do feel let down by Darren Bent, but realisticly the man has not been the same player this season as he was last. His first touch still fails to impress and only his speed has helped him recover the ball in this problem area on occasions. Obviously the fact that he submitted a transfer request means that his heart was no longer here and therefore getting a very good price for him seems good business sense to me. Hopefully Bruce will be given the proceeds of the sale to bolster our squad in what will hopefully be a push for Europe, Nzogbia, Crouch and a quality left back would certainly bolster my expectations.

  • Comment number 94.

    A lot of people are questioning:

    - The price tag
    - Bent's ability
    - the fact that other 'better' European players have cost less

    Whilst I was shocked at the buy one comment I did read yesterday was what would Villa fans prefer? Forking out £10 mil on a player from Europe or a proven PL striker?

    There are no other stikers available at this time who have a proven track record in the PL. Fact. Just look at the figures - only Drogba and Rooney have scored more in recent times.

    As much as I have loved Carew, JP Angel, even Milosevic, they all come from outside the PL with a reputation for goals, none of them proved it. Proven records cost money. Safe move.

  • Comment number 95.

    It's market value for a striker in January, and it's what Villa need.
    To a Villa fan it's £18m, to other fans it's £24m. Strange fluctuations that...
    Honestly as well - the short memories people have. 3 6th place finishes in a row, but now Sunderland are miles ahead for being in 6th halfway through the season?
    Villa being relegated won't happen, just as it didn't to Spurs when they were in trouble under Ramos.

  • Comment number 96.

    He's better value than the 18 million we spent on Hargreaves...

  • Comment number 97.

    What a waste of money, average player who never delivers under pressure. No composure in big games. Harry Redknapp knew what he was doing when he sold him. Sunderland for Europa and Villa for Championship. If he´s worth that money, whats Harry´s missus worth!! Randy Lerner with a capital L

  • Comment number 98.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 99.

    Hopefully, Gyan will come good!!

  • Comment number 100.

    Houllier has just said that Bent is in for the long haul. I don't think so! If you look at his career profile, he stays at each club for two years and then moves on for a fat transfer fee. He has left a club which is 7th in the league, for a club, which is in the bottom three. I agree with Kevin Phillips' comment that he has done if for the money. Will he stay in Villa get relegated!


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