Ciaran Clark celebrates scoring the first goal for Aston Villa
Newcastle have made their move to sign Aston Villa defender Ciaran Clark, activating his £5 million release clause, SkySports reported.
Clark's performances for Villa over the past few seasons have divided opinion among fans, but one man who is apparently impressed is Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez.
This could well be because Benitez saw Clark in action first hand in a game which more or less sealed Newcastle's relegation, when Aston Villa held them to a 0-0 draw on the penultimate game of the 2015/16 Premier League season.
Clark played the entire game as Aston Villa frustrated the Toon, and put in a solid performance.
|Team||Passing Accuracy||Tackles Won||Interceptions Won||Ball Recoveries||Aerial Duels Won||Shots Blocked||Effective Clearances||Mins Played|
|Ciaran Clark||Aston Villa||82%||2||6||3||2||1||6||90|
The match is one which will have stuck in the mind of Benitez all summer, as a win would ultimately have been enough to guarantee their survival at Sunderland's expense.
Newcastle United manager Rafael Benitez
Clark helped Villa to a rare clean sheet, one of his 16 Premier League starts last season.
His six interceptions in the match were double his nearest Villa defender, with Joleon Lescott, Alan Hutton and Leandro Bacuna each managing three each, while his six clearances was only bettered by Lescott (7).
With Newcastle looking for reinforcements at the back and Clark having a £5 million release clause in his contract, it is little surprise Benitez has sought him out - now he just has to replicate the form he showed against Newcastle, for them.
Aston Villa's Ciaran Clark in action against Newcastle United's Papiss Cisse