Jota close to Villa switch, with Gardner heading the other way in Birmingham swap deal

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Birmingham’s Jota is close to joining Aston Villa (Nigel French/PA)

Aston Villa are close to signing Birmingham forward Jota, with Gary Gardner heading to St Andrew’s.

The pair are having medicals on Friday ahead of a swap deal, Press Association Sport understands.

Jota will be Villa’s first signing since returning to the top flight after a three-year absence following Monday’s 2-1 Sky Bet Championship play-off final victory over Derby.

He cost Birmingham £6million in 2017 when he joined from Brentford, where he worked under Villa boss Dean Smith, and scored eight goals in 75 games for Blues.

Gardner spent last season on loan at St Andrew’s, playing 42 times as Garry Monk’s side finished 17th in the Sky Bet Championship having been deducted nine points for breaching the English Football League’s profitability and sustainability rules.

Villa are preparing for the top flight after returning following relegation from the Premier League in 2016. They finished bottom, winning just three games, on that occasion.

Villa were 13th in February this season, but 10 straight wins catapulted them into the Championship’s top six at the end of the campaign.

Promotion was vital, with their parachute payments running out this season, and chief executive Christian Purslow said they will use their £170million promotion windfall wisely.

He told AVTV: “We have a very well-organised recruitment department, under Suso’s (sporting director) leadership – really great young recruiters and highly experienced scouts have joined our club in the last six months.

“They have been working meticulously, Dean and I have been seeing those materials for many weeks.

“We now move from the hypotheticals of Championship v Premier League – we are in the Premier League.

“We will be inundated with both suggestions and speculation. That won’t impact us one iota. We know what we want to do and we will do it thoughtfully and carefully.

“We have momentum. We have a core of players that we’re very excited about. But obviously there will be comings and goings.

“Our goal is that when we arrive in the Premier League, we are ready with a Dean Smith team – players that fit his playing profile and that give us the best possible chance to make a real impact next season, not just making up the numbers.

“There’s no interest in flirting with the catastrophe of relegation that the club has had to live with for the last three years, so we need to make really good decisions and add players who really improve us.”

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