Roberto Di Matteo confirms Leeds United-linked Joleon Lescott is free to leave Aston Villa

Aston Villa's Joleon Lescott looks dejected with Leandro Bacuna

The 33-year-old defender has been deemed surplus to requirements by his new boss after enduring a torrid 12-month spell at Villa Park.

Aston Villa's Joleon Lescott looks dejected with Leandro Bacuna

Speaking at his pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday’s Championship opener at Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa manager Roberto Di Matteo has confirmed that reported Leeds United target Joleon Lescott is free to leave the club.

Reports originally surfaced on Thursday that Villa are ready to let Lescott leave B6 on a free transfer in a bid to lower their wage bill, with the Telegraph claiming that Leeds are weighing up whether to offer the defender the chance of a fresh start at Elland Road.

Di Matteo declined to comment on specific interest in the ex-England international, but he did affirm that he had told him to look for a new club before the end of the summer transfer window.

“It’s correct that I told the player he can look elsewhere for a club to move to,” the Italian said at his press conference. But I am not going to discuss the personal terms we have agreed with the player.”

Southampton's Shane Long in action with Aston Villa's Joleon Lescott

Lescott, 33, joined Villa from Midlands neighbours West Bromwich Albion last summer for an initial £1 million rising to £2 million with add-ons and has since made 31 total appearances for the club he grew up supporting, scoring two goals.

The Birmingham-born defender also wore the captain’s armband at times last term in the absence of regular skipper Micah Richards, but he has become the subject of fierce criticism from supporters due to his poor form and a string of controversial incidents in the run-up to the club’s relegation to the Championship.

He initially angered fans with his conduct during January’s 1-1 FA Cup draw at Wycombe Wanderers, when he and the since departed Brad Guzan were alleged to have sworn at the travelling contingent who took them to task for having a spitting competition in the dugout, before causing further outrage the following month after tweeting a picture of a £121,000 Mercedes in the wake of the team’s embarrassing 6-0 defeat at home to Liverpool.

Aston Villa fans hold up a banner directed at Joleon Lescott

The former Manchester City man later insisted that the tweet was sent by accident from his pocket while he was driving, but he then hit the headlines again in April once Villa’s relegation was confirmed after claiming that it felt like “a weight off the shoulders”.

He also said at the time that he was determined to see out the remaining 12 months of his contract to try to help the club bounce straight back to the top-flight, but with Tommy Elphick, Jores Okore, Nathan Baker, Richards and the promising Kevin Toner all at Di Matteo’s disposal, the veteran centre-back seems to be surplus to requirement.

Aston Villa's Joleon Lescott goes off injured

FIFA World Cup 2018FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia - click here for all of our coverage...

Register for ASTON VILLA team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch