STEVE Bruce’s two-year pursuit of Charles N’Zogbia looks doomed to failure, with Aston Villa submitting an official £10million bid for the Frenchman today.
Villa this week gave permission for Stewart Downing to talk to Liverpool about a £20m move to Anfield and, on the expectation of that deal being finalised, have moved immediately for the Wigan winger.
N’Zogbia is in the final year of his DW Stadium contract and owner Dave Whelan is determined to make cash from a sale rather than allow the player to leave for free next summer.
So whatever happens this summer, N’Zogbia is destined to be leaving the club.
The sticking points previously have been the minimum £9m fee the club wants and the ex-Newcastle player’s determination to secure wages of more than £60,000 per week.
Neither of those issues though are a problem for Villa, especially when the £20m Downing deal completes.
The club already pays former Sunderland striker Darren Bent more than that per week, and Downing was on a similar amount at Villa Park to the figure that N’Zogbia wants.
For McLeish it is a no-brainer – the Scot has long been an admirer of N’Zogbia and sees the appeal of bringing in a younger player than Downing on a similar wage while giving the club a huge profit on the balance sheet.
Sunderland are still officially in the running, but Bruce needs to sell before he can fund the sort of money that Wigan want, while wages remain a problem with the Black Cats unwilling to break their wage structure.
The Sunderland manager has been desperate to secure the services of the pacy, goal-scoring winger since arriving as manager two summers ago and has felt that he has been close on several occasions only for the move to fall at the final hurdle.
His personal relationship with the player – Bruce originally signed N’Zogbia for Wigan and revived his career – has always put the club in an advantageous negotiating position.
But the wages and fees have remained stumbling blocks and with Villa cash-rich, with Downing’s move following the sale of Ashley Young to Manchester United last month – and their manager keen to secure Sunderland’s main summer target, Bruce looks as though he will have to accept defeat and move on.
McLeish, though, he will take nothing for granted after the events of last year.
McLeish came close to signing N’Zogbia at Birmingham 12 months ago only for the move to break down over personal terms.