Villa closing in on Samatta as Smith bids to solve striker crisis

Aston Villa are closing in on the signing of Genk striker Mbwana Samatta.

The Tanzania international has emerged as Villa’s number one target after their striker fitness crisis.

No deal has been struck with Genk yet, but the PA news agency understands Villa are close to sealing a move for around £8.5million.

Villa have played the last two games without a recognised striker after Wesley’s season-ending knee injury, Jonathan Kodjia’s illness and Keinan Davis’ hamstring problem.

But even if a deal is secured for Samatta he will not get a work permit in time to play at Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday.

Boss Dean Smith has also been linked with Leicester striker Islam Slimani, currently on loan at Monaco, and admitted the club may have to gamble this month.

He said: “January is even harder without recognised strikers as clubs can stick prices up a bit, it always has been a tough window and we have to take a couple of risks.

“I’m calm and confident we will get players but we have big games and, if we don’t get one in by Saturday, it’ll be the third in row without a recognised striker.

“We have to make sure we do the best we can without and hope we can get one through.

“There is a necessity there. With Wesley getting injured and Keinan being out we have to strengthen massively so we are looking for a couple.”

Samatta – who netted in Genk’s 2-1 Champions League defeat at Liverpool in November – has scored 10 goals in 26 games for the Belgian side this season and has 20 goals in 56 games for Tanzania.

But former Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina could make his debut at Brighton after joining on loan from AC Milan to cover for Tom Heaton, out for the season with a knee injury.

The 37-year-old watched Sunday’s 6-1 defeat against Manchester City which left Villa in the bottom three.

Smith, who remains without John McGinn after he fractured his ankle last month, added: “He has settled in fine which is what I’d expect. It was important we moved quickly and we’re very lucky to get someone so vastly experienced.

“He’s a leader – he will be a voice in the dressing room we need. We are a fairly young squad and our recruitment in summer was players with potential.

“These kind of players (Reina) can help them fulfil potential by helping them with their experience.”

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