Exclusive: Aston Villa lead Newcastle United in race for exciting free agent transfer

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Aston Villa are currently leading the race to sign Atletico Madrid defender Mario Hermoso, who is also attracting interest from a host of other top clubs, including Newcastle United.

The 28-year-old Spain international, who can play as a left-back or a centre-back to a high standard, is due to be out of contract with Atletico Madrid this summer, and it seems he’s unlikely to stay with his current employers.

Sources with a close understanding of Hermoso’s situation have informed CaughtOffside that Hermoso has rejected Atletico Madrid’s latest offer of a new contract, sparking interest from Aston Villa, Newcastle, Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan, Juventus and Besiktas. There is, however, confidence that Villa can agree a deal on personal terms with the player.

Hermoso has had a fine career in La Liga and would be a statement signing for someone like Villa if they could pull it off, with Unai Emery putting an exciting side together that remains in serious contention for a top-four finish and Champions League qualification for next season.

Hermoso transfer: Will Spaniard head to the Premier League?

Mario Hermoso in action for Atletico Madrid

Hermoso seems ready to try a new challenge after his five years on the books with Atletico, and one imagines he could be tempted by somewhere like Villa if they have Champions League football on offer.

Still, AVFC will clearly have plenty of competition for Hermoso’s signature this summer, with big names like Real, Barca, Milan and Juve also surely likely to be able to make very convincing pitches to the player.

Newcastle also looks an exciting project under their wealthy Saudi backers, even if things haven’t quite gone to plan for Eddie Howe’s side this season, with the team’s standards dipping a little after they perhaps over-achieved last term by finishing in the top four and making the Carabao Cup final.

Still, outside of the traditional big six, there’s no doubt Villa and Newcastle could be among the most tempting options for a player like Hermoso as he weighs up his options for next season.

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