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Dunne in limbo as he seeks final big move

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Richard Dunne in action for Aston Villa

Richard Dunne in action for Aston Villa

Getty Images

Richard Dunne in action for Aston Villa

TWENTY months have passed since Alan Kelly picked up a marker and scrawled the No 5 on Richard Dunne's jersey in Moscow as the centre-half gave the performance of his life.

It was a display that earned high praise from Paul McGrath and the adoration of Irish fans, who designed a flag to commemorate his heroics at the Luzhniki Stadium as Giovanni Trapattoni's side took a major step on the road to Poland with a scoreless draw.

Earning a place at the European Championships was supposed to be a career high point for a player who had served Ireland with distinction without ever playing in a major tournament, but it turned into a nightmare.

Ireland's defence was ripped apart by Croatia, Spain and Italy and the centre-half suffered the groin and hip injuries that would ruin the rest of his Aston Villa career.

News that the Tallaght man's contract was not being renewed by Paul Lambert came as no surprise this week after a campaign that saw false dawn after false dawn and ultimately ended with the 33-year-old failing to make one appearance as the Birmingham side battled for survival.

He lined out during the Villans' pre-season tour of the USA, but the problems that he picked up during the Euros were to dog him all season as he visited specialists in the States in a bid to find a cure that didn't come in time to aid the club's survival bid.

There were moments when Lambert must have cursed him as he appeared to spend an inordinate amount of time during press conferences speaking about a player he could not use and whose best traits were those his callow side were sorely missing.

Considering the club are cutting back on their wage bill and looking for a younger, leaner squad, it is no surprise to see the Dubliner head for the exit door.

Dunne is one of Villa's best-paid players, earning €50,000 a week since his move from Manchester City in 2009. His former City and Irish colleagues Shay Given and Stephen Ireland are also due for talks with Lambert, but both remain in contract, while Dunne could be moved off the wage bill easily at the end of his deal.

So, who will move for a player who has not played football since last June, has undergone three operations in a season and still has question marks over his future as he approaches his 34th birthday in September?

Dunne has been linked with transfers to join Robbie Keane and Darren O'Dea in the MLS, with the New York Red Bulls and Keane's LA Galaxy reported to be interested, but the money available for star names does not normally stretch to defenders in the US and the lucrative deals remain in England, where Stoke City were the most prominent clubs linked with a move for Dunne.

However, yesterday's news that Tony Pulis is to to exit the Britannia Stadium will put a spanner in the works at a club where the chairman is looking for a new direction.

Harry Redknapp was also believed to be interested in the player during his January splurge for survival, but with QPR now facing life in the Championship with an astronomical wage bill, a move seems unlikely.

Of the promoted clubs looking for Premier League experience, Hull City appear the best fit for Dunne, who would join a host of his international colleagues in Steve Bruce's squad, while Redknapp's mooted move to Brighton could also present an opportunity in the Championship.

Dunne has said he has a romantic notions of returning to the League of Ireland to finish his career, but surely he had a lucrative stop-off point planned before returning home?

Whether someone is willing to take that leap and offer him one last big move remains to be seen. Last summer Dunne was headed for the pinnacle of a stellar career, but 11 months on his future looks far from secure.

Where now for Dunne?

New York Red Bulls

Persistently linked with Major League Soccer's other big spenders, Dunne may be tempted to follow his friend Robbie Keane across the Atlantic, not least because of the lesser demands of playing Stateside.

Stoke City

A change of management and a rumoured change of style won't help his case as Tony Pulis (right) moves on to pastures new. Dunne may be better served waiting for the Welshman to pitch up at a new club.

Brighton and Hove Albion

Harry Redknapp is the favourite to replace Gus Poyet at the AmEx and tried to sign Dunne in January. Brighton are a well-run club on the up, and Dunne's wealth of Premier League experience could be exactly what they need, if he can prove his fitness and doesn't mind the rigours of the Championship.

Hull City

Steve Bruce badly needs Premier League experience in his squad and a free transfer would appeal to the manager who already has plenty Irish players in his ranks.

Irish Independent