NEC Nijmegen boss Ernest Faber admits defeat in battle to keep reported Aston Villa target Christian Santos

The 27-year-old Venezuelan forward is reportedly on Villa's radar as they look to boost their slim survival hopes during the winter transfer window.

NEC Nijmegen manager Ernest Faber has admitted to De Gelderlander that he expects star forward Christian Santos to leave the club this winter amid reports linking the Venezuela international with a move to Aston Villa.

Santos originally joined NEC in the summer of 2014 following an injury-ravaged spell with Belgian side Waasland-Beveren and went on to help the club seal promotion to the Eredivisie in his first season in the Netherlands with 23 goals in 34 Eerste Divisie games.

The 27-year-old attacker, who moved with his family to Germany from his native Venezuela at the age of five, has since had few problems adapting to the Dutch top-flight, netting 12 times in 19 league appearances to keep his side in contention for a Europa League spot.

However, having witnessed his goalscoring exploits attract reported interest from a host of clubs across Europe over the first half of the season, it now remains to be seen whether the former Arminia Bielefeld product will see out the rest of the campaign at the Goffertstadion.

HITC recently reported that Championship trio Brentford, Brighton and Hull City are all keeping close tabs on the left-footed speedster, while De Gelderlander claimed earlier this month that Premier League strugglers Villa are also weighing up a move for his signature after netting a division-low 18 goals in 23 games.

Santos himself even revealed to Fox Sports last weekend following his side’s 1-0 home win over Willem II that his contract contains a release clause allowing him to join a top-flight club sitting below fourth-place in their league for just £230,000, before later reaffirming the details in a since-deleted tweet.

The pacey goal-getter, who can play on either wing or through the middle, only has five months left on his deal regardless, and NEC boss Faber has conceded that his star man is ready for a new challenge.

“I think Christian is ready for something different,” he told De Gelderlander ahead of last night’s 0-0 draw at FC Groningen. “But everything is up to Christian. I'd like to keep him. He trains well and shoot all the balls in there. But he also has his own choices and interests.”

As Saturday's 0-0 draw at West Bromwich Albion highlighted, Villa are certainly in desperate need of someone who can finishes the chances which the likes of Carles Gil create, and recent reports have claimed that a new striker is at the top of manager Remi Garde's wishlist as the final week of the transfer window approaches [h/t Birmingham Mail].

With funds said to be limited, Santos would seem like a realistic target for the club, but as a late bloomer who has just half a season of top-flight experience, the jury is out over whether he would be able to produce at the Premier League level.

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