The 27-year-old Venezuela international is reportedly being tracked by the Premier League strugglers after hitting 11 goals in 17 Eredivisie appearances this season.
Santos, 27, originally joined N.E.C. in July 2014 after an injury-hit spell at Belgian side Waasland-Beveren and went on to score 23 goals in 34 league appearances in his first season at the Goffertstadion to help the club secure promotion to the Eredivisie.
The pacey Venezuelan, who moved with his family to Germany at the age of five, has since had few problems adapting to the Dutch top-flight, as he has kept his side in contention for a European spot heading into the second half of this campaign with a return of 11 goals from 17 games.
A host of clubs are now said to be tracking the four-times capped international, and with his contract expiring in the summer, N.E.C. could be forced to cash in on his services in the current transfer window rather than risk losing him for nothing.
HITC recently reported that Championship trio Brentford, Brighton and Hull City are all monitoring his progress, but De Gelderlander claims that Villa are also a potential suitor for the former Arminia Bielefeld product.
The Premier League bottom-dwellers are not believed to have submitted a bid for the versatile attacker at this stage, but with manager Remi Garde promised funds to strengthen his struggling side this month, an approach could well be forthcoming.
He would certainly be a more realistic target than Chelsea’s Loic Remy, but with clubs in Germany, Spain and Portugal also reported to be chasing his signature, it remains to be seen whether the claret and blues would be the front-runners in a potential bidding war.