At the end of January 2012, Aston Villa forward Darren Bent had just scored in four consecutive games for the club and was hopeful of making Roy Hodgson’s England squad for the European Championships.
Despite rumours of a fall-out with then manager Alex McLeish, the £24m signing was the main man in a struggling Villa side, and was suggested to be a transfer target for both a Liverpool side in need of a clinical finisher to assist Luis Suarez, and an Arsenal side likely to lose Robin van Persie in the summer.
Yet how quickly football changes. A season-ending ankle injury against Wigan in February meant Bent was to miss out on the England squad for a second successive major tournament, whilst this season a combination of niggling injuries, poor form and numerous reports of a bust-up with manager Paul Lambert has seen him lose both the Villa captaincy and his place in the starting eleven.
Instead, Lambert has preferred the impressive attacking trio of Andreas Weimann, Gabriel Agbonglahor and summer-signing Christian Benteke, whose 19 Premier League goals have effectively saved the club from relegation and made him arguably the signing of the season.
The fact that Villa have for so long been battling relegation this season and have relied on both Benteke and Weimann, aged just 21 and 22 respectively, is testament to how far Bent has fallen from grace.
He has started just one game in the last six months and regularly failed to get off the bench, leading the striker to recently voice his intention to move on should things remain the same. With this in mind, we look at just some of the Premier League clubs which could possibly come in for Bent during the summer.
1. West Bromwich Albion
Whilst a move to the club would be somewhat controversial, it would allow the much-travelled Bent to remain in the Midlands, and Villa fans would unlikely be stirred if they received a reasonable transfer fee for the 29-year-old striker. Albion will be in desperate need of firepower in a summer in which they look set to lose both 14-goal Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku and outspoken forward Peter Odemwingie.
A return to his former club, where he hit 36 goals in just 63 games for the club over two seasons, is not implausible, especially given the hope associated with new manager Paulo Di Canio.
The Black Cats have been desperately short up-front in recent seasons, relying on Steven Fletcher and the much-maligned Connor Wickham, whilst January signing Danny Graham has yet to fire.
The thought of returning to a front-line he once shared with Danny Welbeck and Asamoah Gyan may now hold little appeal for Bent however.
Another potential destination in the north east, Newcastle will no doubt spend big in the summer given their failure to do so last year, evident in their dramatic fall from fifth place finishers to relegation candidates for much of the season.
The recent loss of Demba Ba and Papis Cisse’s erratic form mean a move for Bent is not unforeseeable, with Alan Pardew perhaps believing he could get the striker back to prolific goalscoring form alongside Cisse and January signing Yoan Gouffran.
He would no doubt relish the chance to play alongside the likes of Hatem Ben Arfa, Check Tiote and Yohan Cabaye should they remain at the club next season and find similar form to that of last season.
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