Aston Villa “hold the cards” over their rivals in the race to sign Said Benrahma and Ollie Watkins from Brentford this summer, according to Noel Whelan.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, the former Leeds striker and Championship expert believes that having Dean Smith at the helm gives the Villans a big advantage.

As revealed by Football Insider earlier this week, Villa are working on a deal to reunite Smith with both of the Bees’ stars in a deal which could cost around £50million.

The Villa boss signed both Watkins and Benrahma for Brentford back in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Whelan believes that the existing relationship between the attacking talents and their former manager gives the Villans a notable advantage in the hunt to sign them this summer.

Whelan told Football Insider: “There could be a bit of a bidding war going on but I think the one thing I think Villa have got in their favour is Dean Smith, who’s already coached Watkins and Benrahma.

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“I’m sure they’ve got a very good relationship with one another. I think that will hold the cards and some weight when it comes to Ollie making that decision.

“When you get good players like that in the Championship, it’s not too much of a gamble for clubs to take a risk on these players.” 

Benrahma, 24, netted 17 goals and chipped in with a further 10 assists for Brentford on the way to the play-off final last season.

Watkins meanwhile hit the back of the net 25 times for the Bees during the regular season to finish as the Championship’s second-top scorer.

In other Aston Villa news, Alex Bruce claims the club could pull off a “massive coup” as they reportedly work on a mega-money deal.