Is Bent over priced at £20m? Or is that just the going rate for a young-ish, English goal-scorer?

Darren Bent worth £20 million, you ask?

How can that fee be justified? Or is it value for money? Just the going rate for a young-ish, English goal-scorer?

When Bent completes his move to Aston Villa this week, the reasons for which are discussed elsewhere on this site, he will carry the burden of yet another, on the face of it, ludicrous transfer fee.

But look at the statistics and they prove Gerard Houllier is buying class, and the most precious commodity of all.

 Bent, over the last five years, had guaranteed goals at the top level... even when playing for sides that have struggled at times.

 It is the perfect fit for Villa. And it is a devastating loss for Sunderland, no matter how the exit is packaged by the club.

Statistics revealed by Opta show that since August 2005 Darren Bent has scored 81 Premier League goals.

Only Wayne Rooney and Didier Drogba, playing for title chasing more talented sides,  have more with 82 each. (15 of Bent’s goals have been penalties though compared to three of Drogba’s and five of Rooney’s)

But he is up there shooting with the best. Top English goal scorer in the Premier League in 2010.

For example, since August 2009 when Bent moved to Sunderland from Spurs (hurt by Harry Redknapp saying his wife Sandra could finish some of the chances he was missing), only Drogba and Carlos Tevez have scored more Premier League goals, with 37 to Bent’s 32 in 57 games.

That sort of form is priceless to Villa, or any other club needing goals to haul themselves out of relegation trouble.

Bent has 11 strikes this season at a time when he has not looked his usual sharp self. If he can double that at Villa, and lift them well clear of the drop, he will pay for himself.

Study the cost of relegation £50 million, turmoil and recriminations, and an investment now in Bent, no matter how inflated the fee seems, is wise.

Sunderland can also use Opta analysis to show how from their point of view they could be cashing in on a prize asset at peak value.

It has not gone unnoticed, by from fans to manager Steve Bruce, that Bent has missed a few chances recently. Most alarmingly during the clash with Blackpool when Sunderland had 32 shots and failed to score, eventually losing 2-0.

Last season at his peak Bent scored a goal every 141 minutes, this season that has drifted to every 218 minutes.

His chance conversion rate has dropped from a goal every four chances to once every six chances.

His shooting accuracy has fallen from 57% to 41%.

None of this represents a poor return, he was still highly regarded at the Stadium of Light and undoubtedly the main man. But it will give Bruce and chairman Niall Quinn leeway to explain why he is leaving – quite apart from his transfer request.

So when Villa pull off this deal remember they are spending cash earned from cashing in James Milner to Manchester City for pds18 million.

I admire Milner as a character and a player, but Villa fans may conclude they may get more of a tangible return from having Bent in their side right now.

He will be a big loss to Sunderland, and a big signing for Houllier. Perhaps the catalyst for a recovery.

Bent will also be missed in the North East. He took an interest in the region, was keen to get out and about, and was good at helping nurture and guide Sunderland’s youngsters behind the scenes with his friendship.

Villa will be signing a gem of a person and a player, and he’ll prove his worth.

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williamhill.com

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