LONDON, England, May 1- Aston Villa will look to repel any bids for Christian Benteke this summer and push through a bumper new contract for their prize asset.
Villa manager Paul Lambert has approached owner Randy Lerner with a proposal to add an extra year to the 22-year-old striker’s deal and the American billionaire looks set to rubber-stamp it. Lambert is desperate to keep Benteke after his sensational first season in the Premier League.
The club have lost shining lights including Gareth Barry and James Milner in the past but Lerner is prepared to double Benteke’s basic pay to £2million a year to keep him out of the clutches of Tottenham or Arsenal, both of whom have taken an interest in him.
New York entrepreneur Lerner is not about to jeopardise the signs of recovery which were so evident in the 6-1 thrashing of Sunderland on Monday.
Lambert said: ‘I’m sure at the end of the season we’ll sit down with Christian and a few others.’
Benteke’s hat-trick on Monday took his top-flight goal tally to 18 — 22 in all competitions — and he is in line to become the first player since Peter Withe to score 20 in a league season.
Villa are not clear of danger yet but they dragged Newcastle into the mix by turning over a 10-goal difference in one weekend.
Wigan, on the other hand, could be relegated less than three hours before chairman Dave Whelan leads the team out at Wembley for the FA Cup final next week, with Villa due to entertain Chelsea in the lunchtime kick-off on May 11.
Villa’s win on Monday left Wigan five points behind Lambert’s side, Newcastle and Sunderland in the third relegation place.
Dropping into the Championship would have no bearing on Wigan’s participation in next season’s Europa League, however. They will qualify for the competition once City’s place in next season’s Champions League has been confirmed through their league position.
With Wigan facing Villa at home on the last day of the season, manager Roberto Martinez is confident his players have the survival skills to beat relegation for a fourth year in a row.
‘It counts in terms of experience of knowing what to expect and the severity of the situation,’ said Martinez. ‘They know how to cope and not be affected by the meaning of the games, just like any big club can do.’