By Will Butcher
Aston Villa have been handed a boost by striker Rudy Gestede after his national side failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations.
The eight-time Benin international was set to join his compatriots in Gabon early in 2017, if they beat rivals Mali in a qualifier.
The 27-year-old failed to find the net though, as his country lost 5-2 and crashed out of the tournament.
Gestede’s disappointment will come as a boost to Villa fans, who are set to lose £15million striker Jonathan Kodjia to the same competition, as he links up with the likes of Yaya Toure, Gervinho and Max Gradel for Ivory Coast.
Kodjia, who now holds the transfer record for a Championship club after his switch from Bristol City, scored for Ivory Coast in a 1-1 draw with Sierra Leone to confirm their place at Gabon in four months time.
Manager Roberto Di Matteo will be delighted that former Blackburn target man Gestede will be available for selection, as Jordan Ayew and Albert Adomah are also set to go missing as they link up with Ghana for the finals.
Gestede has made four appearances for Villa this season, starring in the side’s only Championship victory against Rotherham with two goals and an assist as Di Matteo’s side ran out 3-0 winners.
In other Aston Villa news, this new signing is ready to shoulder the responsibility to get Villa back in the Premier League.