Sunderland striker Darren Bent may be on the verge of a surprise move away from the Stadium of Light after handing in a transfer request. The news comes after Aston Villa tabled a surprise offer for the striker, a reported fee of £18 million, and while the England international remains on the books of the Black Cats, the former Ipswich, Charlton, and Tottenham man could be set for the fourth move of his career.
Sunderland have not confirmed the amount or origin of the bbg, but in a one sentence statement released on the club's website, England's sixth place club had confirmed the 26-year-old's desire to move:
The club can confirm that it received a written transfer request from Darren Bent following yesterday's Wear-Tyne derby match.
With eight league goals, Bent is Sunderland's leading scorer, one goal ahead of Asamoah Gyan. Manchester United loanee Danny Welbeck has added six goals, hinting the Black Cats could be reasonably situated to handle Bent's departure. Those hints, however, deceive.
Bent's 32 goals in 58 appearances speaks to a longevity Gyan and Welbeck have yet to establish. With Welbeck dealing with a hamstring problem and Frazier Campbell out until May recovering from knee surgery, losing Bent right now would leave Steve Bruce hamstrung in the short term. Currently siting only four points out of a Champions League place, Sunderland is faced with the ill-timed departure of their most prolific scorer.
Another aspect that could frustrate the Black Cats could be the price. Though £18 million seems a reasonable bid, it is only marginally more than Sunderland ended up paying Tottenham for Bent in 2009. Villa's bid could represent as little as a £1.5 million turnover on the £16.5 million Sunderland may have sent Spurs.
For Aston Villa, the Bent acquisition would address a glaring need, with veteran Emile Heskey having become the choice striker after Gerard Houllier's hire and John Carew's dip in form. Heskey has posted three goals in 10 league appearances while Carew was scoreless in his 10 matches. Carew had scored 34 league goals in the three preceding seasons, only two more than Bent's scored in his last season and a half.
While Villa scored 52 times last season, they have only managed 24 in 22 league matches this year, Stewart Downing's five goals leading the team. After three consecutive sixth place finishes, Villa sits 17th, one point above the relegation zone.
With the deal not done, Sunderland clearly developing a plan for this unforeseen problem, debates will center around why Bent's moving from a sixth place club, one where he has settled in perfectly? Why is he moving to a team that could be in the Championship in sixth months and replicate the experience he had at Charlton? Is this the right move at the right price for Villa? While Darren Bent's career at Villa Park has yet to begin, those debate have, likely to have days to develop before further news on Bent's Birmingham move.