Aston Villa look set to approach Rangers in the next 48 hours for permission to speak to Steven Gerrard, after the former Liverpool man was identified as their No 1 choice to succeed Dean Smith as manager.
Gerrard, who is under contract until 2024 at Ibrox, is reportedly interested in a potential return to England should Rangers grant permission for talks. A compensation package of around £2m is unlikely to be a stumbling block for Villa’s owners, Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens.
The 41-year-old has long been talked of as Jürgen Klopp’s successor at Anfield and, somewhat coincidentally, their current contracts end in the same year. However, Villa’s ambitions could be an attraction for Gerrard as the Midlands club look to build on last season’s 11th-placed finish.
Gerrard has been focused on securing back-to-back Premiership titles with Rangers and keen to stress he is happy in Scotland while trying to deflect constant speculation about a return to the Premier League. Smith was dismissed as Villa’s head coach on Sunday after five straight league defeats.
Villa see Gerrard as a manager with the profile and hunger to bring European football back to the club and are keen to wrap up the move well before their next Premier League fixture against Brighton, following the international break. Gerrard is also well known to the Villa chief executive and former Anfield managing director, Christian Purslow, while Gerrard’s current assistant manager Gary McAllister worked at the Birmingham club during Gérard Houllier’s spell in charge.
The Belgium coach Roberto Martínez is also on Villa’s list should a move for Gerrard fail but there is growing confidence in the Midlands that a deal can be done. The Denmark manager Kasper Hjulmand has ruled himself out of contention. The 49-year-old is highly thought of by Villa’s sporting director Johan Lange, and was immediately linked following Smith’s sacking on Sunday.
Hjulmand said: “I’m happy to be the Danish national coach, and I’m not going anywhere right now. I think I have only just started and I am in the process of finding out what this team can do.
“I love the job. For me, it is a big challenge to see how far we can go. How well we can get to play because we have a very exciting team with great potential.”
Source: The Guardian