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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 August 2006, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Lerner ready to renew Villa bid
Aston Villa
Randy Lerner is expected to re-open talks with Villa chairman Ellis
American billionaire Randy Lerner is poised to renew a 64m bid to buy Aston Villa - as speculation mounts that Martin O'Neill will be appointed boss.

BBC Sport understands that tycoon Lerner is back at the negotiating table and will make an official offer to buy out chairman Doug Ellis within days.

And former Leicester and Celtic boss O'Neill is firmly in the frame to succeed David O'Leary at Villa Park.

Lerner appeared to back away from a deal, but is now back in pole position.

Reports in the Midlands claimed O'Neill was in lengthy talks with Villa officials on Monday, and may even be appointed before the start of their tour of Germany and Holland, which opens in Hannover on Saturday.

It had been suggested O'Neill might be unveiled on Tuesday, but Villa operations director Steve Stride said: "Contrary to rumours circulating, there is no announcement planned concerning the appointment of a new manager.

"The situation remains ongoing and we will inform fans as and when it is possible to do so."

O'Neill is the favoured choice of chairman Ellis and Lerner, as well as local businessman Michael Neville, who has also put together a takeover consortium and has so far submitted the only firm bid.

If, as expected, O'Neill is appointed, he is almost certain to bring long-time backroom team John Robertson and Steve Walford with him.

Lerner's return to negotiations may spell the end of the AV06 consortium led by British barrister Nicholas Padfield QC.

Sven-Goran Eriksson's agent Athole Still and a group of Arab businessmen are also interested in buying Villa, but Lerner looks favourite to clinch a deal.

Padfield told The Guardian that he had lodged a preliminary inquiry and envisaged setting up a meeting with the Villa board.

But the deputy high court judge would not divulge any details of the consortium's backers.

Lerner, 44, flew home last Wednesday after discussions with Ellis and was understood to be upset at the response he received in talks about a potential deal.

Neville says he has lined up a manager should he win control of the club, and that is understood to be O'Neill.

Solihull businessman Neville bid unsuccessfully when Ellis put the club up for sale last season but has since assembled new backers to enable him to make a concrete offer.

606 VIEW

Meanwhile, Still held talks with Villa officials on Wednesday.

Eriksson is Still's most high-profile client and the two were caught in a tabloid sting in January when they held discussions with an undercover reporter, posing as a Sheik, in Dubai.

The News of the World published Eriksson's revelations, including that he would consider becoming manager of Aston Villa if there was a takeover of the club.

Just eight days later, Eriksson agreed he would leave the England job at the end of the World Cup.

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