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Page last updated at 14:57 GMT, Friday, 8 May 2009 15:57 UK

O'Neill prepared to look overseas

Martin O'Neill
O'Neill's prime moves at Villa Park have been for English-qualified players

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill is set to break from his policy of signing English players as he looks to strengthen his team over the summer.

O'Neill has largely favoured home-grown players since taking over at Villa Park but is now broadening his horizons in the search for bargain buys.

"We're trying to improve the squad, and we have had an awful lot of young English players," he told BBC WM.

"That doesn't mean I've got a closed mind, absolutely not."

O'Neill may need to replace members of his existing squad before adding to his numbers at Villa Park, with Martin Laursen looking likely to retire through injury and Gareth Barry among those players attracting interest from elsewhere.

"Certainly in terms of value, ask a lot of Premiership managers and you find out that prices here between English clubs are very prohibitive," O'Neill noted.

The very, very best in the country in the last decade have improved the game, enhanced the Premier League

Martin O'Neill on foreign players

"You start to look and you think you can get a quality player from the continent who's got all the skills in the world.

"You just worry about if he might have the temperament, not to survive here, but to absolutely prosper.

"I think that's becoming less of a worry in terms of continental players because the very, very best in the country in the last decade have improved the game, enhanced the Premier League."

The former Celtic boss is eager not to leave himself short-handed for another European campaign after sacrificing his club's Uefa Cup run this season in order to concentrate on the quest for a Champions League place.

Although that target fell by the wayside, Villa have already qualified for the new-look Europa League, and O'Neill is wary of the workload that could entail.

The current campaign has taken its toll on a number of players, with England striker Gabriel Agbonlahor quoted this week as saying he feared burn-out.

"I must admit he's picked up a couple of niggling injuries recently and that's unlike him," said O'Neill.

"The reason is obvious - it's because he's played so many games without any respite at all - we haven't had the same luxury of being able to rotate in the same manner as the top four sides would do."

Agbonlahor may be required by the England under-21 side for the European Championships in Sweden next month, which would take him close to playing for 12 months without a break.



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