Aston Villa are confident of hanging to two of their brightest young things when their existing contracts-expire this summer.

Midfield man Thomas Hitzlsperger has been repeatedly linked with a move back to Germany this summer after failing tie down a regular starting- place this season, while reports yesterday suggested that teenage striker Luke Moore might also be prepared to move on.

The prospect of a regular first-team start would be a major factor for both players in making their decisions but although that is something manager David O'Leary cannot guarantee, Villa appear to have had very positive vibes as to their chances of keeping the two youngsters.

Hitzlsperger, signed on a free transfer by John Gregory from Bayern Munich as an 18-year-old in August 2000, is understood to be happy, especially following his recent return to the first team.

That was illustrated on Villa's last Premiership outing 11 days ago, when his explosive volley at Portsmouth helped the club to their second away win of the season.

The hard-shooting German had been previously responsible for the other onthe-road success, with his last-minute wonder strike at Bolton last November. But he has started just ten of Villa's 27 Premiership games this season, an appearance rate on which he will be looking to improve next season - a campaign which will end with Germany hosting the World Cup.

With Hitzlsperger now a member of his national team's squad, having won his first cap against Cameroon just before Christmas when he faced new Villa team-mate Eric Djemba-Djemba - he needs to be playing regular first-team football to stand any chance of fulfilling the dream of playing in a World Cup on home soil.

With that in mind, Hitzlsperger's long-term ambitions at Villa are certainly not encouraged by the fact that he is apparently so undervalued by his manager. Surprisingly, an already crowded midfield department was the only one O'Leary felt the need to strengthen in the January transfer window.

Villa are even more hopeful of hanging onto the younger of the two Moore brothers - Stefan having already been told he can leave - even though he still has 12 months left on his contract.

"We've already met with Luke's agent and sat down for talks and we are confident that he will sign a new contract," said a Villa spokesman. "Those initial talks have gone well and we're confident of a swift and positive conclusion to the whole thing."

Moore, a part of Villa's FA Youth Cup-winning side in May 2002, signed his first professional contract on his 17th birthday in February 2003, fending off interest from both Arsenal and Manchester United to sign for his boyhood heroes. Having not made startling progress last season, the England Under-19 striker has recently become an established figure in O'Leary's senior squad, having not been out of the 16 since October.

Moore's chance this season has come chiefly thanks to Darius Vassell's injury problems and although the 19-year-old is yet to score his first goal for the club, he still has plenty of opportunities to improve his bargaining hand.

Vassell's comeback plans have been put back by the recent onset of severe winter weather, so Moore should remain a key part of the equation between now and the end of the season. The indications from inside Villa Park are that the two parties are not very far apart in their negotiations.

* Newcastle United manager Graeme Souness last night revealed he failed in a New Year bid to take Villa winger Nolberto Solano back to St James' Park.

The Peruvian international was sold to Villa last season for £1.5 million by Souness's predecessor Sir Bobby Robson.

Souness told a local radio phone-in in Newcastle: "I tried to buy him in January and I was told that under no circumstances was he for sale. My information was that he would be happy to come back. You can never say never, but we were given a rebuff."