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Villa were almost relegated last season and the manager is determined to bring in an older head to help both on the playing side and in the dressing room.
Lambert has a number of possibilities including another former Villa player Gareth Barry who is currently in contract extension talks with Manchester City.
Since leaving Villa for Liverpool for £20 million, Downing, 29, has had a wretched time and although Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has not given up on the player, club sources suggest that if the right bid came along he would be allowed to leave. Downing himself is keen to stay and fight for his place.
The biggest stumbling block to any move would be the player’s £70,000 a-week wages, though a low transfer fee could mitigate that.