Aston Villa are close to completing their first signing of the summer after finalising terms with midfielder Patrik Berger.
The 31-year-old Czech international, who is out of contract at Portsmouth, has agreed a two-year contract at Villa Park and Berger's agent Barry Silkman last night described the transfer as "a done deal".
Silkman told The Birmingham Post: "There has been a lot of interest in Patrik but he's going to Aston Villa - it's a done deal."
The left-sided former Liverpool player, who has 40 caps and 18 goals for his country, is now set to be formally unveiled at Villa when his contract at Fratton Park expires at the end of the month.
Villa hope Berger's signature will be the first of several new arrivals at the club as manager David O'Leary goes about assembling a squad capable of qualifying for the Uefa Cup next season after finishing tenth this term.
O'Leary, who has an estimated £15 million to spend, has also been linked with Southampton striker Kevin Phillips, Liverpool forward Milan Baros and Rangers' Dado Prso.
Further signings are expected as O'Leary has given chairman Doug Ellis a list of targets and challenged the Villa chairman to deliver.
O'Leary has made it clear he wants his new recruits in place for the start of preseason training in early July and the imminent acquisition of Berger days after the end of the Premiership campaign is encouraging.
Berger, who scored three times this season, joined Pompey on a free transfer two seasons ago following a sevenyear stint at Anfield.
The midfielder, who went to Liverpool for £3.25 million from Borussia Dortmund after Euro 96, has nine years' experience of playing in the Premiership and will provide competition for Gareth Barry on the left. Berger is also capable of playing as a withdrawn striker and his arrival will allow O'Leary to use Barry at left-back in place of Jlloyd Samuel should the defender need a rest or sustain an injury.
O'Leary is now expected to turn his attentions to solving Villa's shortage of goals as the team managed just 45 this term - with midfielder Nolberto Solano finishing top scorer on eight.
Villa tried unsuccessfully to sign Phillips in January but O'Leary is still keen to enlist the 31-year-old, who netted 13 goals for Southampton in the Premiership this season.
Phillips' partnership with ex- Villa forward Peter Crouch was unable to prevent Saints being relegated, however, and the south coast club's chairman Rupert Lowe said yesterday they will now have to sell some of their best players.
Lowe said: "We certainly want to keep people like Peter Crouch, who is signed with us until 2008, and I think he is the kind of guy who wants to stay and put right what has gone wrong. It must be our aim, too, to hang on to Antti Niemi, Kevin Phillips and Nigel Quashie.
"We have taken the precaution of having contracts that impose pay cuts on players in the event of relegation.
"But inevitably we will lose some because this team was good enough to be in the Premiership and they will be wanted."