By Dominic Toner

Sunderland have ended their pursuit of Aston Villa defender Micah Richards, according to a report.

The Daily Star reported that the 28-year-old has a £5million release clause in his Villa contract and new Sunderland manager David Moyes was preparing to sign the defender.

The Northern Echo report that Moyes has now reconsidered and will search the transfer market for a different defensive option.

Villa manager Roberto Di Matteo is under no pressure to sell Richards, who captained them last season at times. The defender has three years remaining on the four-year contract he signed last summer.

The Telegraph claimed that Sam Allardyce was interested in signing Richards before landing the England job, but his replacement has opted against the defender.

Richards endured a difficult campaign last year as he was unable to prevent The Villains conceding 76 Premier League goals, and subsequently being relegated for the first time in 28 seasons.

The versatile defender joined Villa on a free transfer from Manchester City in 2015 and the defender played in 28 matches last season, predominantly at centre-back.

The 13-time capped England ace was once considered a bright prospect as he broke into Man City’s senior side in the Premier League as a right-back.

But a combination of the Manchester side’s increased wealth and the emergence of Pablo Zabaleta has seen Richards’ career hit a steep decline.

Before signing for Villa, Richards spent the 2014-15 season on loan in Italy with Fiorentina, but struggled to break into the side before his move to the Midlands.

The Englishman looks set to help Villa launch a promotion push this season in the Championship and regain their top-flight status.

In other Aston Villa transfer news, their goalkeeper is set to leave the club by the end of the week.