Just yesterday, The Chronicle confirmed that Brentford star Ollie Watkins had been identified as one of our leading striker targets this summer by the club’s recruitment team.
That said, it looks like Premier League rivals Aston Villa are set to make the first move for the 24-year-old this summer, according to Sky Sports News.
They report that he is top of Villa’s shopping list and ‘keen’ to be reunited with former Brentford boss Dean Smith.
There’s been a lot of conflicting claims over a potential fee, however. The Athletic reported recently that a £18m release clause exists in his contract and The Chronicle’s Mark Douglas stated yesterday that the Bees are looking to get ‘in excess of £16m‘ – stating they’d be willing to do a deal with Newcastle at something around that figure.
That said, Sky Sports state today that they are now holding out for £25m for the striker who scored 26 goals in the Championship last season. If true, has his £18m release clause expired and, with that, is he now a player who may be out of our price range given Bruce’s reported budget is around the £30m mark?
Sky Sports also report that Sheffield United and Crystal Palace have shown interest, but it looks like Aston Villa are in pole position and preparing an opening bid.
Jeff Hendrick may be close to signing at St James’ Park on a free – a shrewd signing who will give us Premier League experience and another solid midfield option on the cheap if it happens – but this could be another blow in our hunt for a much needed goalscorer this summer.
With the new season just four weeks away, let’s hope we can step up our chase for a new striker soon!