By Harry Sykes

Aston Villa are closely monitoring Hearts defender John Souttar ahead of the January transfer window, according to a report.

The Scottish Sun claim the Midlands club have had the highly-rated centre-back watched several times recently.

It is said that Villa’s interest started before the arrival of new manager Steve Bruce but scouts have been instructed to continue monitoring his displays.

Souttar, still only 20, has been a mainstay of the Hearts teams this season and has been touted for a spot in the senior Scotland squad in the near future.

The Scotland Under-21 international has made 12 appearances in all competitions for the Scottish Premiership club this season.

He snubbed Sunderland in 2013 when he was starring for Dundee United at 17. Souttar has already accumulated 101 senior club appearances despite his tender age.

Villa are currently in 18th position in the Championship after providing lift-off to their season with Tuesday’s last-gasp 2-1 victory over Reading.

In other Aston Villa transfer news, Villa are interested in Middlesbrough forward Jordan Rhodes.