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Villa target Hughes to replace Houllier

Aston Villa want Fulham manager Mark Hughes to replace Gerard Houllier at the Birmingham club according to reports on a number of back pages today.

Fulham will be reluctant to part with the former Manchester City manager who guided The Cottagers to eighth place in the Premier League during his first season in charge at the London club.

If Hughes is persuaded to remain at Craven Cottage, Villa's owner Randy Lerner will turn to the other names on his short which is said to include: Everton's David Moyes, Wigan's Roberto Martinez and the jobless pair of Steve McClaren and Martin Jol.

However, before they can start searching for a new manager, Villa need to agree the details of Houllier's pay-off deal. There is a clause in the Frenchman's contract which limits his payoff to £5 million if he's forced to leave the club for health reasons.

But Houllier is reported to have medical certificates proving that he is fit to work, so it is not clear if he is being fired or standing down for health concerns. Lerner will be hoping that the club can avoid a similar payout to former manager Martin O'Neill who recently walked away with a reported £5 million.

Either way Houllier's return to the Premier League was brief and relatively unsuccessful. The Frenchman's tenure will ultimately be remembered for a series of public-relations disasters, bust ups with senior players and some average performances on the pitch.

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