Reports that Milan Baros is "unhappy" at Aston Villa have been dismissed by his agent.

The Czech international is clearly not having the best year of his career in the wake of his World Cup injury nightmare, having so far failed to find the net for Villa since making a delayed return to first team action this season.

But, at a time when manager Martin O'Neill is giving serious thought to his frontline options when the transfer market reopens in January, Baros knows all too well that he has to give his immediate future some thought.

Though he backs him to ultimately pull out of this current trough of poor form, even his agent, Pavel Paska, has admitted that the 25-year-old striker's career is at a crossroads.

"I think this is the point when his career will go either in a good way or a bad way," said Paska. "Popularity and money often get ahead of sporting progress, But he is still only 25 and I have no doubts that he will reach the top of his ability in two years' time."

Coming on top of last season's efforts when, despite being injury-hampered by a string of niggling knocks, Baros still managed to end it as Villa's 12-goal top scorer. But he has regressed this season, his confidence having taken a big knock on the back of his fall from top scorer at Euro 2004 to one of world football's forgotten men.

Baros, signed for #6.5 million from Liverpool just over 15 months ago, is now fit again from the foot injury that blighted his World Cup and kept him sidelined until September. And his agent obviously points to his player's latest period in the treatment room as a factor in his struggles to shine under the O'Neill regime at Villa Park.

"Milan was still struggling three months after the World Cup and he went straight into the team without having a pre-season," said Paska.

But O'Neill's potential strikeforce alternatives might have been left clearer following the injury suffered by Robbie Keane on Tuesday night. The alleged O'Neill target is now scheduled to be out for six weeks following the injury he suffered for Tottenham Hotspur against Middlesbrough on Tuesday night.

And Baros can also take comfort that he was chosen ahead of the more hard-working but less penetrative Juan Pablo Angel when the Colombian was dropped for the 2-2 draw at Portsmouth on Saturday.

Angel did respond with Villa's late deflected equaliser, his seventh goal of the campaign to once again tie with skipper Gareth Barry on seven goals as joint top-scorer. As a result, he is in line for a recall against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane in their fixture on Monday night.

But O'Neill did go out of his way to praise Baros after the game at Fratton Park and Paska also insists that, instead of waiting for another big club to come along, like Hamburg were reported to have done in the summer, Baros should knuckle down and try harder to make it with Villa.

"I don't think it is right to use the term 'unhappy' in this situation," said Paska. "The player knows he has a contract and that he has to perform well, so he cannot be unhappy.

"I was in England to watch Aston Villa's home game against Fulham in October. Full house, fantastic atmosphere. I cannot imagine a player would be unhappy in such conditions. He can be angry when he is not playing, but then he has to train harder.

"He knows he has to work hard and that will take some time, because football in England is very physical."


* Has Baros been a disappointment? Give us your opinion at the messageboards.