The prospect of losing both James Milner and Ashley Young is inconceivable for Aston Villa fans. But it remains a feasible circumstance, especially in the former’s case, as Manchester City have made no secret of their desire, and interest in Young has been a quiet ever present since his PFA young player of the year award in 2009.
Manchester City’s recent raid has resulted in high calibre signings: Jerome Boateng, Yaya Toure, and David Silva certainly add the necessary quality to a team that came so close to the Champions League last season. With their ability to out-muscle any bidder, offer staggering salaries, and point to their recent acquisitions as proof of progress it appears the writing is definitely on the wall for Aston Villa and James Milner:
“Eventually if players do want to leave the football club, or any football club for that matter, then it becomes more difficult than ever before. But what I will say is we have a better chance of performing in the manner in which we did last season if we could keep the best players and James Milner comes into that equation.” –Martin O’Neill
It’s obvious that keeping your best performer is key to any success but the protracted Gareth Barry transfer saga of 2008 and 2009 seems set to repeat itself; this time with a younger, perhaps more talented, protagonist. What are Villa’s options should Manchester City improve on the (reported) £20m offer tabled before the World Cup? Well, they can refuse to sell Milner for any fee. Or they can hold tight and demand a truly ludicrous amount of money for his transfer. Or, and this may represent the smartest option, they can barter a deal involving one (or more) of City’s players plus a fee in return for him.
The reason I say it may represent a smarter option is because City have the likes of Craig Bellamy, Stephen Ireland, and Joe Hart all likely to miss out on regular first team football this term. Both Bellamy and Ireland possess the kind of qualities that could see Villa’s squad improved; Bellamy’s pace and versatility in attack coupled with Ireland’s guile in central midfield would complement the fast paced counter attacking play Villa produce.
Keeping Ashley Young for at least one more season should provide an easier task as, at 25, he still has time to mature before overtures from, for example, a Champions League team become difficult to ignore. At Villa he is afforded the consistent playing time that all players thrive off and, equally importantly, within a system that is geared toward his strengths – the smart option is another year at a club that has developed him for four years and who he could, potentially, help to progress even further.
Needless to say that losing both players will be disastrous but there is still a chance for progress should only Milner (and it seems likely judging by O Neill’s words) leave with the opportunity to poach one or more of City’s out of favour players.
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