By Noel Whelan

8th Jan, 2022 | 7:00pm

Pundit issues 'massive' Aston Villa claim after source's Hickey update today

Noel Whelan has backed Aston Villa to pull off the signing of Bologna defender Aaron Hickey this month.

The former Leeds striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, insisted the “massive” lure of working with Steven Gerrard could be enough to get the 19-year-old to Villa Park.

As reported by Sky Sports’ Rob Dorsett on Wednesday (5 January), Villa have made an approach for Hickey as they look for a new left-back.

The 19-year-old reportedly caught Steven Gerrard’s eye while playing for Hearts against Rangers before moving to Italy.

A Villa source told Football Insider today that Hickey is on the club’s left-back target list as well as Everton’s Lucas Digne.

Whelan hailed the Villa board for backing their manager’s in the transfer market.

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He suggested Hickey could be a future Premier League star after impressing in Italy.

Whelan told Football Insider’s Russell Edge: “Gerrard’s now got that backing of the board. We’ve seen that with the Coutinho signing.

“They’re not scared to spend money and give it to the manager. They gave money to Dean Smith when he made the signings in the summer and once again, they’re doing it now.

“I think part of the reason of Steven Gerrard coming in is the fact that he can attract a Coutinho. No other manager probably could have done this at Aston Villa.

“Now they’re backing him for another signing. It’s not easy to go out to Italy and play when you’ve been at Hearts. It’s a completely different kettle of fish altogether.

“If you can make that work in Italy, there’s no reason why you can’t make it work out in the Premier League. The guidance of Steven Gerrard will be a massive factor to bring a player like that back to England.”

Hickey has played 31 times for Bologna since joining in 2020.

Matt Targett is currently Villa’s first-choice left-back.

In other news, Gabby Agbonlahor savages Aston Villa star who has “gone missing”.