Aston Villa are now the favourites to sign Ollie Watkins with Sheffield United not prepared to pay £25m, reports Sky Sports.
Crystal Palace are also keen on Watkins, who fired Brentford to the Championship playoff final last season with 26 league goals.
It had initially been thought that the 24-year-old had an £18m release clause in his contract. This could be activated if the Bees weren’t promoted to the Premier League.
Yet that has since been played down by the club. It seems the clause was written out when Watkins signed a new deal until 2023 last August.
They now want £25m if they are to sell the striker – a price the Blades consider to be too expensive.
Villa have not been dissuaded and are preparing an opening bid for Watkins. Their manager, Dean Smith, signed the forward for Brentford in 2017.
Watkins is said to be keen on the idea of a reunion with Smith at Villa Park.
Why Blades are right to leave Aston Villa to Ollie Watkins
Watkins was certainly one of the standout players in the second tier of English football in 2019/20. Yet United are sensible not to be drawn into a bidding war for the Exeter City academy product.
Last summer they were interested in two similar players to Watkins following their promotion to the top flight. Oli McBurnie, who eventually joined the club for £20m (BBC Sport), and Neal Maupay.
Maupay – who also played for the Bees at the time – moved to Brighton and Hove Albion for £16m (BBC Sport).
Both players are the same age as Watkins and had similarly impressive scoring seasons before their transfers. Which perhaps suggests that Brentford, at £25m, are overvaluing an attacker with no Premier League experience and only one prolific campaign in front of goal.
The Blades are unlikely to break their transfer record any time soon – which is currently the £22m paid for Sander Berge in January – because of the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although Watkins is a talented player and an attractive prospect, they’re therefore right to walk away at that price.