Eirik Bakke is over the hamstring problems that hindered his career with Leeds United and now his mission is to help Aston Villa reach what he sees as their rightful place in Europe.

The Norway international midfield player joined Villa on a loan deal that will last at least until January 31, 2006. If successful, his stay at Villa Park might be extended beyond that.

Bakke is 27 and seems to have spent the majority of his career in England playing under David O'Leary. O'Leary signed him for Leeds from Sogndal in 1999 so it was no surprise when the same manager signed him for Villa on Wednesday morning.

Bakke was quick to play the role of diplomat. "Villa were the only club I would have left Leeds for," he said, although it is hard to imagine that he would turn down, say, Chelsea or Manchester United or Liverpool.

Still, when Bakke turned up at Bodymoor Heath yesterday to begin work with Villa, it was a time for discretion. He has endured such a miserable time with injuries and what he calls the "soap opera" at Leeds United that Villa must seem like a breath of fresh air. In August, it usually is.

"This has been my first full pre-season for three years so I am optimistic," Bakke said. "I had a hamstring injury but that is okay now. I just need matches. It is initially a short-term deal but I want to play a part in helping Villa qualify for Europe.

"Leeds was a soap opera for years. It felt worse for me because I was out injured, earning a large salary, and I couldn't contribute on the pitch. That was hard. I think David O'Leary would have turned things around eventually at Leeds."

Even by Villa's standards, this has been an active week. In addition to Bakke, O'Leary also signed Wilfred Bouma from PSV Eindhoven on a permanent deal and James Milner from Newcastle United on loan. Nolberto Solano was sold to Newcastle on Wednesday for £1.5 million, just 19 months after joining from the Northeast club for the same fee.

"When you consider what we have got in return for a player who wanted to be elsewhere, we've definitely got the best of the deal," O'Leary said.

"Nobody at the club wanted Nobby to leave and that includes me, the chairman and supporters so we initially rejected Newcastle's offer. But Nobby made it very clear he wanted to leave."