Aston Villa striker Shaun Maloney is set to rejoin Celtic for £1?million. The 25-year-old Scotland international is said to have agreed a four-year contract worth £20,000 a week.
Neither Celtic or Aston Villa could confirm the deal had gone through but The Birmingham Post understands Maloney was in Scotland yesterday discussing personal terms.
The deal ends a frustrating 18 months for Maloney (right), who joined Villa from Celtic in January 2007 for £1?million. He has struggled to settle in the Midlands and admitted suffering from homesickness.
Despite flashes of his ability, including a particularly impressive brace for Villa in the 4-4 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Boxing Day 2007, Maloney has failed to hold down a regular place in Martin O’Neill’s side. He has scored just five goals in 30 appearances and his departure will now mean O’Neill will step up his attempts to bring at least one new striker to the club.
O’Neill has been linked with a £16?million bid for Blackburn Rovers’ star striker Roque Santa Cruz and with Reading’s Republic of Ireland international Kevin Doyle.
New Villa goalkeeper Brad Friedel rates Santa Cruz as one of the top three Premier League buys of last season, but he believes it may be asking too much of Blackburn to allow the Paraguay striker to become the latest big-name player to leave Ewood Park.
The 27-year-old scored 23 goals for Blackburn last season after signing from Bayern Munich for £3.8?million and Friedel acknowledges that his former team-mate is a top striker.
He refused to comment on any interest Villa may have in Santa Cruz, but admitted he can see why there is so much talk about him.
Santa Cruz has also been the subject of a bid from former Rovers manager Mark Hughes who has been trying to sign him for a second time and take him to Manchester City. Blackburn rejected that approach with new manager Paul Ince determined to hold on to the forward after seeing Friedel leave for Villa and David Bentley sign for Tottenham. Hotspur
“As far as transfer speculation is concerned I know nothing about whether he is going to go or stay,” said Friedel.
“As far as him as a person, he is a great professional, a tremendous player and, for me, last season he was probably one of the top three buys in the Premier League.
“He’s up there with Fernando Torres pound for pound.
“He is just the whole package, good in the air, he can hold the ball, it was a great return for what Blackburn paid.
“But when it comes to transfer money, I don’t even know if he is saleable what with myself and Bentley already gone, you’d have to call John Williams (Blackburn chairman) and ask him that. It would be tough if three of us were to leave in one summer. He’s a hard worker and came into the Premier League with people thinking he’d had a lot of injuries and might not play that much, but I think he missed two training seasons all year and worked his socks off.
“I can’t believe people passed up on him last year, maybe they were thrown off by his injuries. I can’t say enough good things about Roque Santa Cruz. He’s a lovely fellow and a great guy.”
But Friedel insisted no-one should write off Blackburn, particularly after their opening-day win at Everton, and laughed off suggestions they would be relegated this season were wide of the mark.
“That’s ridiculous in my opinion,” said Friedel. “I do not see them having a problem with relegation.”