Martin O'Neill believes Aston Villa winger Ashley Young is worth nearly £30million in the current transfer market and he is confident the player will sign a new contract sooner rather than later.

O'Neill admitted he paid over the odds for Young during the January 2007 transfer window when he agreed a deal with Watford that eventually rose to £9.65million.

Now the Villa manager's determination to sign Young has been rewarded with a series of superb performances during the past 18 months. And O'Neill is adamant Young is now worth three times what he splashed out for him and is optimistic he will sign a new deal in the next couple of weeks.

O'Neill said: "Ashley is now worth three times what we paid for him. I am inclined to exaggerate but he is priceless. He is absolutely outstanding.

"I've already said I was surprised he was not in the England squad for the midweek game (with the Czech Republic) but his time will come, no question of that. He is absolutely outstanding.

"Actually, I had better not shout out how much I think he is worth because we are in the throes of doing a new contract with him. I actually think he is worth £4million! His value has plummeted until we have got the contract sorted!

"In all seriousness, I would like to try and do that contract in the next week or two. Are we that close - yes?"

O'Neill conceded: "I still think at the time I would have preferred to have paid £5million rather than the initial £8.2million for Ashley. You had to take a gulp. It kept going up.

"But he has shown his worth. He relishes the free role we give him and his delivery of crosses, emphasised by the one headed home by John Carew for the first goal against Manchester City, is superb.

"He is a natural and we see him do that sort of thing on the training ground time and time again."

O'Neill knows Villa will have to be on their mettle when they visit Barclays Premier League new boys Stoke on Saturday.

He said: "It is their first home game. In normal circumstances you would not want to face a promoted side in their first home game. I saw them last week and I thought they were more than holding their own against Bolton until the first goal.

"They lost a bit of concentration at that time. They retrieved the second half and pulled themselves around again but, regardless of that result, for the first home game back in the big league after 21 years, the place will be buzzing.

"We've got to be able to cope with that but I am hoping, if the game settles down to a pattern, we can go and try and play but we need to go and earn the right to do that."

Meanwhile, the Villa boss admitted he would have preferred to have kept the services of striker Shaun Maloney who has rejoined Celtic in a £2.5million deal - 20 months after moving south of the border for £1million.

O'Neill said: "I am disappointed he has gone. I would have preferred it if he had stayed. His best position he feels is either centre-forward with someone strong alongside him or maybe coming in from the left hand side.

"In effect the two players keeping him out of the side are Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young. He thought his chances might be limited. I didn't quite see it like that.

"But the call of Celtic was very strong and, so in the interest of everyone we decided to go through with it, even though in the scheme of things, I would have preferred it if he had stayed."

O'Neill has no fresh injury problems and is keeping faith with the squad which overpowered Manchester City 4-2 last weekend thanks to an Agbonlahor hat-trick.