By Graham Hill
ASTON Villa have been told to forget about getting Jack Butland on the cheap.
Villa are ready to make a firm bid for the England keeper who is set to leave Stoke City this summer and return to the Premier League.
But Potters bosses will hold out for more than £20million – which means interested clubs may wait to make an offer.
Butland says he will leave as he knows he must be playing top flight football in order to keep his international ambitions intact.
Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate has made it clear he does not want to pick Championship players and although Butland kept his place last season – the former Blues keeper knows that situation cannot last.
But Stoke will not simply allow Butland to exit the club – and believe a fee of around £23million is fair.
Villa are reportedly ahead of Bournemouth in the race to sign Butland, 26 – with Crystal Palace also interested.
Stoke’s chief executive Tony Scholes said: “Some players have expressed a desire to move on and it makes sense for us as well.
“Some players agreed to stay for an extra year to give us a push for promotion and it hasn’t worked out.
“Take Jack as an example. Jack’s on record as saying he needs to be playing in the Premier League
“And in saying that, he is echoing what Gareth Southgate has not only told Jack, but I think without naming Jack he’s said he needs his players to be playing in the Premier League.
“We recognise where Jack’s at. We respect his opinion, we respect what he wants, but also we’ve got to look after the football club and got to make sure that if Jack’s moving on, it’s for a fair price.
“Players leaving is more difficult than players coming in, if I’m honest, because with players coming in you tend to be the pro-active ones, the ones out there chasing trying to make the deal happen.
“With players leaving, you’re often beholden to clubs who may or may not want to take that player and the moves they do and don’t make.
“So with players leaving it can be more difficult and a more uncomfortable feeling because you are less in control.”