Houllier has said that Aston Villa will keep Ashley Young at the club, despite reports linking him to other clubs. Young, who has 18 months remaining on his deal, was on the verge of signing a new four-year contract in October. The improved deal would have given him a £500,000 annual pay rise and contained a clause that allowed him to leave Villa if a predetermined transfer fee was offered.

The former Watford player pulled out of signing at the last minute, however, and informed Villa he was not interested in returning to the negotiating table until the summer. With Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur showing interest, Ashley Young’s actions suggested he was keen to give himself the best possible chance of moving at the end of the season by reducing the fee Villa could demand for a player with only 12 months left on his soccer contract.