By Graham Hill
VILLA’S pursuit of Jack Butland is fast turning into a summer transfer saga.
It became clear some weeks ago that the England keeper is top of the list in terms of searching for a new No1 at Villa Park.
But when Stoke are demanding upwards of £20million – they wanted £10million more a year ago by the way – then the clubs are not going to agree.
Not when Tom Heaton or Neil Etheridge are available for less than half of that sum. Villa clearly value Butland at much less.
You can see Stoke’s point, it would be like Tottenham coming in with an offer of £30million for Jack Grealish.
But Butland is an ambitious player, he wants to be challenging for England honours and he has admitted himself that he cannot do that realistically while playing in the Championship.
Stoke boss Nathan Jones has offered Butland the carrot of a successful Championship campaign and a shot at promotion back to the Premier League this season.
But Butland was promised that last season and Stoke fell away badly.
The question is, now much patience does Butland have? And will Villa eventually give way and pay up?
Stoke are definitely not blinking first in this one, but much depends on how desperate Butland is to get away.
The player himself was talking in terms of leaving at the end of last season, now he is back in the Potteries for pre-season and with the start of the season just a couple of weeks away.
Bournemouth and Crystal Palace are also keen on Butland while Villa have enquired about other keeper targets.
Jones has made his stance clear and told the Stoke Sentinel: “We don’t want Jack to go. Jack’s a Premier League goalkeeper, no two ways about it.
“He’d like to get back there as soon as possible so we could give him that platform, but if there is any suitor for Jack Butland, then they have to pay the value.
“This is not a club that is desperate to sell or needs to sell. This is a club that has the utmost ambition to get back to where it’s been for 10 of the last 11 years.
“If anyone would like Jack Butland, then there’s a value on him. Jack knows that, we know that, clubs know that. There’s been a lot of speculation, which is not good for the player or the club, so if anyone is going to, then come and do it.
“If not, then move on so we can settle down.
“I’ve spoken to Jack, I have a good relationship with him, and he’s an outstanding professional. Nothing has changed.
“Jack’s an international goalkeeper and, for me, as good as there is in England. Jordan Pickford has the England jersey, but Jack’s right there pushing him.
“For Jack to do that, he has to play well and that’s what we will give Jack a platform to do if the value isn’t met.”