By Joe Nelson

West Ham are lining up a loan move for Aston Villa defender Micah Richards, according to a report.

Football website ESPN FC claim the Premier League club are keen on landing the former England international before the transfer window cut-off on Wednesday night.

It is said that Villa are willing to offload Richards in order to slash their wage bill.

The 28-year-old defender has slipped down the pecking order under new manager Roberto Di Matteo, with his only appearance this season coming in an embarrassing 3-1 drubbing to League Two outfit Luton Town in the English League Cup.

Villa have signed centre-back duo James Chester and Tommy Elphick for a combined £11million this summer, and Nathan Baker is also ahead of Richards in the running for a place at the heart of the backline.

The Daily Star reported last month that the 28-year-old has a £5million release clause in his Villa contract.

However, ESPN’s report does not mention West Ham have plans to permanently buy the player, with the deal only said to be a loan transfer.

Richards, who has three years left on his current contract, endured a difficult campaign last year as part of a defence that conceded 76 Premier League goals, and a side that was relegated for the first time in 28 seasons.

The Manchester City academy graduate has 13 England caps after making his debut for his country as a teenager but he has not played international football for four years.

The Hammers are searching for a solution to their right-back problem, which has seen Michail Antonio deputise in the area, but it is clearly not his favoured position, as he has too many goals in his game for extraneous defensive duties.

In other West Ham transfer news, the club have settled this defender’s terms.