Fulham face continued speculation that Aston Villa are poised to make a bid for Steed Malbranque.

Reports in France indicate that Villa manager David O’Leary is keen on signing the former Lyon midfielder, who Hone recently suggested could leave Craven Cottage if Fulham received a suitable offer.

Chris Coleman has insisted repeatedly this season that Malbranque would only leave Fulham for one of the Premiership’s leading clubs – a category that Aston Villa hardly fit into.

However, the Midlands club do have close ties with Fulham – their chief executive Bruce Langham was Jim Hone’s predecessor at Craven Cottage.

Malbranque, an influential figure since joining the club in 2001, has struggled for form during much of this season and his value will have fallen significantly in the past 12 months.

He was left out of the team for the festive matches against Arsenal and Birmingham City but gave a much-improved performance when he returned to the starting line-up for the 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace last Saturday.