Gérard Houllier has confirmed Ashley Young will not be sold next month and that Aston Villa are giving serious consideration to forfeiting any transfer fee for the England international by making him see out the remainder of his contract.
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, 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 contract.
Houllier, however, refuses to concede defeat and said he remains hopeful Young can be persuaded to stay when the two parties meet at the end of the season. He also confirmed the Guardian's story this week that should the player continue to refuse to sign a new deal, both he and Randy Lerner, the club's owner, are "brave" enough to hold the 25-year-old to his contract and sacrifice a transfer fee.
Houllier, who said Villa would change their stance only if offered "crazy money", drew parallels with the form Steve McManaman showed in his final 12 months at Liverpool as evidence of the value of keeping a player whose contract is running down. "Ashley won't go in January," Houllier said. "We are hoping we can keep him [in the long-term]. The club's will is to keep him.
" It would be brave to hang on to him [until the end of his contract] but I'm brave and I think Mr Lerner is too. I think it would be good to keep him. Steve McManaman went to Real Madrid, we [Liverpool] decided to keep him, but the offer he got was too big. He was fantastic in that remaining time. Sometimes it pays to hang on to players because you think you will finish in a better position."
Young, who remains a doubt for Tottenham's visit on Boxing Day after picking up a knee injury, has left a big impression on Houllier since he took over as manager in September. "He runs more miles than nearly every other player in games and the stats back that up. He's a match winner. He is strong and can withstand the physical side of things."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010