Paul Lambert's refusal to select Darren Bent for Aston Villa has been baffling at times this season, if perhaps a little unfair. His latest omission from Lambert's squad – for Villa's 1-0 victory over Reading – is the second match in a row that the England international has failed to even make the bench, and has fuelled speculation that he could be on his way in January.
Bent continues to be lauded as one of England's most lethal strikers, enjoying a strike-rate of nearly one in two, and would surely be a welcome addition to many Premier League squads. But the question remains as to where could he go? talkSPORT decided to take a look at his options...
Bent has been heavily linked in recent weeks with a loan move to Liverpool. With the Reds heavily reliant on Luis Suarez for goals, boss Brendan Rodgers will be the first to admit that his side need extra fire-power if they are to secure European football for next season. While questions remain over Bent's ability to play with a striking partner, he represents a great option for most sides, and Rodgers would be hard pressed to find another readily-available hitman who knows the way to goal. The Liverpool boss will be wary of trying to crowbar Bent into his side though, especially given the rich form Suarez is currently in, and any deal would probably see Bent used as a back-up striker.
Likelihood: This move makes the most sense for both parties, but Brendan Rodgers doesn't seem overly keen
With rumours continuing to circulate regarding the future of Demba Ba, Toon boss Alan Pardew may have to delve into the transfer market should he lose his top scorer. While fans will point towards his other options in attack, the indifferent form of Papiss Cisse and Shola Ameobi are a slight cause for concern. Also a big worry for Toon fans is their continued slide down the table, which Pardew has attributed to the additional Europa League fixtures and the increasing list of injuries as the root cause, prompting suggestions that new faces could arrive in January to help save Newcastle's season. Bent's eye for goal would certainly revitalise their campaign, and given his rumoured availability on loan, he could well be the perfect fit for the Magpies.
Likelihood: If Ba departs, Bent could find himself back in the north east, but as an ex-Sunderland striker, how would he be received by the Toon Army?
The Rs horrendous start to the campaign finally shows signs of improving following the arrival of Harry Redknapp as boss, but they need goals if they are to stand a chance of surviving. Long term injuries to Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson, leaves the goal-scoring burden on Djibril Cisse, whose decline is something of a worry. With Redknapp certain to be handed a sizeable budget in January, QPR could move for Bent, who would cost significantly less than the refuted £24m Aston Villa paid for him. While QPR, however, would welcome Bent, would he welcome them, with the England international's relationship with Redknapp still believed to be fractured following a fall out in their Tottenham days?
Likelihood: When January arrives, if QPR are in with a shout of staying up they will be at the front of the queue for Bent
Chelsea may be reigning European champions and about to compete for the world title, but they could do a lot worse than bring Darren Bent on board. The Blues are in desperate need for another striker and, while they would love to sign someone like Falcao, a short term option to save their season could be the Villa attacker. The failure of Fernando Torres to live up to his £50m billing and the off-pace Daniel Sturridge have placed the goal scoring onus on the remainder of the side, and Chelsea need to remedy that fast if they are to mount a serious title challenge this season. The Blues' tendency to play a loan striker would certainly suit Bent, who has struggled when alongside a partner, and the frequency of opportunities created will make the Villa striker feel like it's his birthday.
Likelihood: With Chelsea, you never know!
Where should Darren Bent go? Should Aston Villa try to hold on to their recent signing, or look to cash-in on him this January? Have your say by commenting below...