Date:Wednesday July 18 2007
Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill has said he is planning on holding talks with Olof Mellberg in the near future regarding the defender's future.
The 29-year-old Sweden international, who has been at Villa Park since 2001, has just one year left on his current deal and will be free to talk to other clubs in the January transfer window - if he hasn't signed on the dotted line of a new contract by then.
O'Neill told the official site: "I intend to sit down and talk with Olof's representatives very soon."
However, as Villa continue to build for the future (the current worries surrounding yesterday's signing of Marlon Harewood won't affect anything) it could be argued that now is the time to bring in fresh blood to work alongside the old guard.
While few fans would want to see the former skipper given his marching orders, the upcoming contract negotiations do give Martin O'Neill the chance to consider whether Mellberg is worth keeping for the long-haul, or just a short-term answer.
We all know what Melly can do, we've seen him perform time and time again in the claret and blue, and we know he is a class player. But he turns 30 next season and, given our much-heralded five-year plan, perhaps the boss should be looking at players who will be able to perform at the highest possible level in a few seasons.
Contracts are puzzling things at the best of times, and football contracts seem to have more clauses than a Father Christmas convention, but could an offer not be made for a three-year deal that only guarantees regular first-team football for the first year?
Then, Melly would still be contracted to the club for a further two years but could be used as cover, or to work with the younger players who will be coming through to ensure they will be able to cope with the demands of Premiership football - and possibly Champions League football.
Some will think I'm being negative with regards to Melly, but we really must be forward thinking if we are to go forward. We all love certain players at the club, but at the same time we know that the current group of players can only go too far.
I am sure Martin O'Neill will also realise this - he's the manager, thankfully - and when he decides whether to hand out fresh contracts or tell players they are not needed, or not needed as they have been, he will realise that where the club go in the next few years is far more important than we it has been in the past.
Mellberg is just one example, and there will be many other decisions to make over the upcoming few seasons. But if we are to get back to where we belong - the top of English and European football - then we need players who can perform in the future, not ones who have performed in the past.
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Date:Wednesday July 18 2007
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