Darren Bent admits he may have to leave Aston Villa in the summer.
The England international was a £24million club record purchase for Villa in January 2011, at a time when his goals for Sunderland had made him one of the most prolific strikers in the country. Bent scored nine goals in 16 matches during his debut season in the Midlands, and last term scored the same number in 22 outings.
This season he has been completely out of favour under new manager Paul Lambert, who has selected him to start just seven league games with a further eight appearances from the bench. The 29-year-old, who has chipped in with two goals, has had to watch from the sidelines as Belgian starlet Christian Benteke has stole the headlines.
The 22-year-old has often been used as a sole striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, or when Villa have opted for a three-man attack, he has been flanked by Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann. The £7million summer signing from Genk has responded with 19 league goals, making him one of the star performers of the Premier League season.
Although his contract still having two years to run, Bent accepts his future is likely to lie away from the Midlands, and he told the Daily Star: “It is about playing and, at my age, I can’t have another season like this one. Time is running out. I’m not really one of these guys who wants to sit there, not do anything and get paid.”
Despite his previous spell at Sunderland, early speculation suggests rivals Newcastle United may be willing to take a punt on him when the window reopens. The Magpies suffered when they sold leading goalscorer Demba Ba to Chelsea in January, and only secured their survival when they won at Stoke City on Sunday. The Britannia Stadium side, incidentally, are another club who are thought to be interested in signing Bent.