Rumours have surrounded James Milner all summer, most notably with a potential transfer to Man City on the horizon with figures between £20-30m mentioned, but whether this deal should be treated with such trepidation from Villa fans I’m not so sure.
Milner is undoubtedly a good player. He’s industrious, versatile and with very good delivery from wide areas. The winger come centre midfielder has proved extremely valuable to Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill, particularly last term where he was not only excellent in patches, but consistent throughout, form which led to him winning PFA player of the Year award.
However, the money being bandied about at the minute with regards to Milner is inflated to say the least. It really does just further enforce the point that you pay a premium for English players above our continental counterparts. Milner is probably worth around the £15m mark, but due to his passport an extra 10-15m has been lumped on top of that.
Aston Villa have played a smart game up until now, and although all hope should not be lost that the England international will depart Villa Park for pastures anew, the £20m offer which they rejected from Man City in May was obviously just an opening offer and there will be plenty of bargaining to do yet.
Chairman Rand Lerner has already stated that tighter financial constraints will be placed upon O’Neill from now until whenever he sees fit and that he wants to see the club move towards becoming more self-sufficient in the future. Lerner’s words of “I gave him (O’Neill) the assurance that I wanted to take the team forward. But I think that it’s good business to try to sell to buy. We have an operating budget, we set those goals, and our loss came by having our costs exceeding our budget” will hardly be music to the supporter’s ears, but they look to be in safe hands.
The money being mentioned with regards to Milner, especially after Lerner’s words of financial caution, could become extremely useful over the summer. It’s not that Villa need a major overhaul, just tweaking in certain areas to a threadbare squad. The spine of the team is very good, but another central midfielder, with even Scott Parker being mentioned recently, wouldn’t go amiss. A specialised right back would be useful and another player up top to ease the goalscoring burden on Gabriel Agbohnlahor would be a decent and much overdue option to have around.
The myriad of players that have been linked with O’Neill’s side recently is certainly mouth-watering to say the least with the likes of Robbie Keane, Hatem Ben Arfa, Aiden McGeady, Hugo Rodallega, Adam Matthews and Kevin Prince Boateng, not to mention several players mentioned in a swap deal of sorts (even though they rarely ever happen) such as Stephen Ireland, Nedum Onouha and Craig Bellamy all apparently in the mix.
Of course, most of these rumours are spurious to say the least and won’t come to fruition, but O’Neill would probably be capable of signing up to four or five of these player just off the Milner money alone, should he be allowed to reinvest it, which according to Lerner’s ‘sell to buy’ mantra I see no reason why he wouldn’t be.
In 2001, Juventus sold Zinedine Zidane for a world record fee of £45.8m to Real Madrid. With the proceeds of this sale, Juventus were able to buy Pavel Nedved from Lazio for £35m, Gianluigi Buffon for £23m from Parma and Lilian Thuram for £22m also from Parma, which formed the nucleus of a squad that went onto win back to back titles in Serie A the following two seasons after Zidane departed.
Inter Milan followed this example last season too with the sale of Zlatan Ibrahimovich to Barcelona for £40m + Samuel Eto’o, which was just the start with Sneijder, Lucio, Muntari, Mariga, Diego Milito, Thiago Motta and Goran Pandev all coming in with the extra cash made available to new manager Jose Mourinho. This rebuild offset a 45-year wait for the Champions League on top of a Serie A title and a Coppa Italia. These are of course extremes but it just goes to show that rebuilding a squad with the sale of a major asset is not always the end of the world.
The fact of the matter is that Aston Villa have probably the smallest squad of all of those challenging for European qualification and every season there is a very real danger of burnout. With this extra money the club would be in a strong position to add not only quantity to their squad but quality also.
Stephen Ireland would be perfect for Villa, as would Robbie Keane and Adam Matthews, a purchase that would obviously be made with an eye on the future, as the Cardiff youngster certainly has a bright future ahead of him and has attracted the interest of Man Utd and Arsenal in the past.
Milner would be a loss to most sides that goes without saying but the strength of the squad over the individual is of paramount importance. Losing one of your best players isn’t the end of the world as long as the money is reinvested properly and with the purse strings having been tightened at Villa Park; a monumental offer around the £30m mark for Milner would be impossible to refuse, for the benefits of the sale far outweigh the cons.
Would Milner’s departure be the end of the world? Who do you think Villa should spend the money on should he depart?
Written By James McManus