Look Hughes now a free agent

Hughes – the odd-on favourite to succeed Gerard Houllier – is

technically a free agent after his June 1 contract deadline passed.

The Cottagers want the 47-year-old to stay after he masterminded an

eighth-placed league finish, as well as qualification for the

Europa League through the Fair Play table, last season – and

further talks between the two parties are expected to take place.

But Villa are understood to be keen to exploit the Welshman’s break

clause after agreeing a severance package with Houllier. Houllier

left Villa Park on Wednesday night after just nine months in

charge, with owner Randy Lerner considering it too risky to keep

the Frenchman on following his heart scare. Houllier’s assistant,

Gary McAllister, former Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez and

Everton’s David Moyes have also been linked with the Villa Park

hotseat.