Aston Villa

Aston Villa

Premier League • England

Gerrard ‘expected’ to battle Benitez as Villa and Everton eye £40m rated Prem starlet

Steven Gerrard and Rafael Benitez stand during a Liverpool training session, 2008

Steven Gerrard is ‘expected’ to do battle with his former boss Rafael Benitez for a £40m rated Premier League starlet, according to a report.

Gerrard will face off against Benitez in the dugout for the first time ever when Aston Villa travel to Everton later this month. However, they could first clash off the pitch, with both clubs interested in Burnley’s Dwight McNeil.

The winger, 22, has a few top-flight sides interested in him. As well as Villa and the Toffees, The Sun report Crystal Palace are monitoring him.

While the Clarets are said to be open to discussions, they have put the £40m price tag on McNeil as that is how highly he is regarded.

January is ex-Liverpool captain Gerrard’s first transfer window in charge of his new side, but McNeil has been on their radar since last summer.

They were reported to be preparing a move at that time. However, they splashed the cash on alternative attacking reinforcements.

Benitez’s side also lined him up in the previous window. They too made different transfer decisions, though.

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Palace appear to be a new name in the battle. The report notes they would have to sell Wilfried Zaha to fund a move.

Therefore, it seems Villa and Everton are the more likely of the trio that Burnley anticipate bids from.

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McNeil’s owners are currently in a relegation battle, so letting him go now may seem unwise.

However, he has contributed just one assist so far this season. And they have other priorities as to who they want to remain at Turf Moor.

They could sell the England under-21 international in order to keep ahold of centre-back duo James Tarkowski and Ben Mee.

Both are fancied by Newcastle and at this time are more crucial to Sean Dyche than McNeil, who could be off if his asking price can be negotiated.

Busy January for Gerrard

Meanwhile, a pundit has tipped Villa to complete a shock move for Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino.

The 30-year-old has been at Anfield since July 2015. He has formed a deadly partnership with Mo Salah and Sadio Mane in attack. But his position is now under threat.

Diogo Jota is in terrific form, registering six goals in his last eight Premier League appearances. The Portugal international is threatening to replace Firmino in Jurgen Klopp’s plans.

The manager admires Firmino’s ability to link up play, but it is clear that Jota’s output is way above that of his team-mate.

talkSPORT pundit Tony Cascarino thinks Firmino could swap Liverpool for Villa, with Gerrard to play a big role in the move.

READ MOREPundit tips Gerrard, Villa to ‘go big’ and complete shock signing of Liverpool star