Aston Villa are left with a Christian Benteke shaped hole after the Striker's £32.5 million release clause was met by Liverpool. Last week they also lost Fabian Delph to Man City, after his more modest £8 million release clause was met, despite previously pledging his loyalty to the club. They've strengthened by making Scott Sinclair's loan permanent, bringing in Micah Richards on a free transfer, and recently signing left back Jordan Amavi from Lyon, and midfielder Idrissa Gueye from Lille. But having also lost Ron Vlaar on a free transfer and Shay Given to Stoke, it leaves Tim Sherwood with a football manager-esque summer rebuilding job on his hands. I've had a look at 5 players that Aston Villa should have at the top of their shortlist.
Charlie Austin - QPR
Villa are left light in the striking department thanks to Benteke's departure, with Gabriel Agbonlahor and Libor Kozak the only recognised strikers, the latter recently returning from long term injury. They do have Callum Robinson, but he is yet to register a goal for Villa, and spent last season on loan at Preston. Austin brings an aerial presence that would replace Benteke's, he scored 5 headed goals last year, and a work rate that has seen him rise from non-league at Poole Town to scoring 18 goals for relegated QPR in the Premier League last season. They may be put off by his injury record and his £15 million asking price, but the door has been left open for Villa to make a move after Newcastle signed striker Aleksandar Mitrovic and Crystal Palace signed Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford on a season-long loan.
Florian Thauvin - Marseille
The 22 year-old winger scored 5 and clocked up 4 assists in Ligue 1 last season. Newcastle recently had a £10.7 million bid for the highly rated youngster rebuffed, amid reports that he is unsettled following a series of high-profile departures from the French club this summer. Thauvin brings an element of flair to the table, and he tends to play on the right wing, although he has played across the attacking midfield for Marseille before, and he would bolster Villa's options out wide, with Grealish, Gil and Sinclair set to be first team options, backed up by N'Zogbia and Bacuna who can play right midfield. It would be an ambitious move from Villa and they would have to fend off interest from Newcastle, but Premier League clubs have made a series of ambitious moves this season; Ayew to Swansea, Cabaye to Crystal Palace and Payet to West Ham to name a few.
Esteban Cambiasso - Free Agent
A left field choice perhaps, but the experienced former Argentinian international anchored Leicester's midfield superbly in their great escape last season, and is available on a free transfer after rejecting a new deal. He'd be ideal a holding role for Villa, especially after losing Fabian Delph, and would bring vital experience to the side, particularly after losing experienced players in Given and Vlaar. The obvious downside to this deal is Cambiasso's age, he turns 35 in August, and as such would likely be given a one year deal with an option for another, but the player has pedigree and could be a clever acquisition for a Premier League club this summer.
James Tarkowski - Brentford
Tarkowski was a mainstay for Brentford last season at centre back, and at 22 has plenty of potential to improve. He featured alongside Harlee Dean in a successful first season in the Championship for the Bee's as they lost out in the play-offs. His impressive form has sparked rumours this summer but nothing concrete has emerged, Villa have brought in Micah Richards but he has tended to play at Right Back during his career, so strengthening at the back might be prudent, and Tarkowski is certainly a good young player. Another option from the Championship is Brighton's Lewis Dunk, who contributed to the Championship's 2nd leanest defence, and he even contributed at the other end with 5 goals. Dunk is also young, at 23, but is more of a physical defender than the ball playing Tarkowski, the main downside about both of these players is their lack of top flight experience.
Timo Horn - Cologne
With Shay Given gone and Sherwood's doubts over Brad Guzan meaning they are willing to accept a £4 million bid for the keeper, they may well be in the market for a new No.1. Cologne's Timo Horn is just 22 and is one of many young talented German goalkeepers, including Bernd Leno who are looking to challenge Manuel Nueur for the German No.1 spot. Any move for a goalkeeper does depend on freeing up funds as they've already got Guzan, Mark Bunn and Jed Steer under contract, even after offloading Given's high wages. A deal for Horn would be prudent, although there is likely to be other interest in him, reportedly from Borrussia Dortmund too.