Aston Villa’s hopes of securing a permanent deal for goalkeeper Sam Johnstone have been dealt a blow by his parent club, Manchester United.
Johnstone’s deal with the Red Devils is set to expire at the end of the season but multiple reports suggest this may be changing soon.
If his contract is extended, this will effectively dash Steve Bruce’s hopes of signing Johnstone on a free transfer in the summer.
Aston Villa are currently sat in the playoff places in the Championship and are pushing to earn promotion back into the Premier League.
Should the club secure promotion, the financial rewards will help the club afford to pay the rumoured £4 million fee required to sign the goalkeeper – but there is no guarantee the team will secure promotion.
Johnstone, who is in his second loan spell at Villa, is also reportedly attracting the interests of another West Midlands club – West Bromwich Albion.
West Brom, who have recently hired Alan Pardew as their manager, are reportedly looking at Johnstone and could afford to sign him on a permanent deal as early as January.
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Villa will be desperate to keep one of their top performers around, potentially negotiating a deal with United to sign Johnstone in the summer should the club secure promotion.
This would be a risky move, with Bruce’s team suffering a number of key injuries already this season.
If, come January, Aston Villa are looking more and more likely to secure promotion, either automatically or via the playoffs, then it could be a gentleman’s agreement between the two clubs that can help give Villa the edge over their regional rivals.
The fact that Ben Foster is firmly entrenched as the Baggies’ first-choice goalkeeper could also be another factor in persuading Johnstone to stick with Villa.
At Villa Park, he is their guaranteed number one with 20 Championship appearances already this season.
If he hopes to keep playing regular first-team football then a permanent summer move to Aston Villa, under whatever circumstances that may be, would be the best move for his career.
But with United potentially extending his contract, the challenge that faces Villa to secure his signature is much more difficult.