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Aston Villa launch contract talks with Ollie Watkins

Premier League top-six hopefuls Aston Villa have initiated contract talks with star striker Ollie Watkins, according to The Athletic.

Watkins endured a troubled start to the 2022/23 season, but Unai Emery’s arrival in November has turned his fortunes around.

The 27-year-old has been in scintillating form lately, notching 11 goals in the last 15 games, soaking up the limelight as the club’s most prolific player.

The Englishman has tallied 42 goals in 112 appearances for Villa since switching to the Midlands from Brentford for a reported fee of £28 million in September 2020.

His initial deal at Villa Park would keep him in Birmingham until 2025, but the club are keen to reward their in-form forward with a new contract ahead of the summer transfer window.

Watkins’ rise to prominence under Emery has not gone unnoticed.

The Spaniard is not the only admirer of Watkins, with Gareth Southgate reportedly monitoring his progress in the Premier League ahead of a potential international recall.

Despite his squad boasting Tottenham Hotspur superstar Harry Kane and Brentford talisman Ivan Toney, the England national team manager is contemplating bringing Watkins back into the fold.

The Torquay native has amassed 15 goals in 36 competitive outings for the Villa Park outfit this term, earning plaudits from Emery, who described him as his ‘star student.’

Unfortunately for Villa, Watkins drew a blank as Manchester United defeated them 1-0 in Sunday’s mouth-watering contest at Old Trafford, effectively ending their faint hopes of joining a top-four race.

While that loss knocked Emery’s high-flyers down from a phenomenal ten-match unbeaten league streak (W8, D2), they’re still on course to secure their first European finish since 2009/10.

Going into the four final matchdays, they sit seventh in the Premier League table, with fifth-placed Liverpool only two points away, highlighting the potential for Europa League qualification.

Villa return to top-flight action when they travel to Molineux on Saturday to take on season-long bottom-half strugglers Wolverhampton Wanderers.

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