Aston Villa's hesitation may cost them coveted free agent defender

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Aston Villa's ambitious plans to bolster their defensive line-up ahead of their Champions League debut have hit a snag as they face fierce competition from Napoli in the pursuit of Atletico Madrid's Mario Hermoso.

The 28-year-old centre-back, who is set to become a free agent, has caught the attention of several clubs, with Napoli emerging as the frontrunner in the race to secure his signature.

According to DAZN Italy's Orazio Accomando, Napoli are in advanced negotiations with Hermoso and are on the verge of agreeing to a three-year deal with an option for an additional year.

The Italian side, coming off a disappointing season, are in desperate need of experienced defensive reinforcements and are prepared to offer Hermoso higher wages and more playing time assurances than Aston Villa.

Hermoso's wealth of experience and free agent status make him an enticing prospect for many clubs. The Spanish defender has been a stalwart for Atletico Madrid over the past five years, making 174 appearances and contributing 10 goals, including playing a crucial role in their La Liga title triumph in the 2020/2021 season. His performances have also drawn interest from Juventus and other Premier League clubs.

Aston Villa's financial constraints due to FFP regulations have forced them to adopt a cautious approach in the transfer market, allowing Napoli to gain the upper hand in the negotiations. Reports suggest that the Partenopei are offering Hermoso a salary of around €3m (£2.5m), which aligns with their budget.

While Villa fans may prefer the club to focus on younger centre-back options, Hermoso's proven track record and availability on a free transfer make him an attractive prospect. However, with Napoli leading the race and Villa's inability to act swiftly due to financial restrictions, the Lions may have to explore alternative defensive targets.

As Hermoso carefully weighs the offers on the table, Aston Villa face a daunting task to secure his signature. The club's management will need to act decisively and efficiently if they hope to strengthen their squad ahead of the challenges that come with competing in the Champions League, especially considering their position as the most active club in the transfer market.

The pursuit of Mario Hermoso has become a battle of wits and resources, with Napoli holding the advantage. Aston Villa's aspirations of bolstering their defensive line-up with the experienced Spaniard hang in the balance as they navigate the complexities of the transfer market while adhering to financial fair play regulations.

As the clock ticks down, the Lions must make a move or risk losing out on a valuable addition to their squad ahead of their Champions League campaign.