Manchester City’s Stephen Ireland is undeniably a better passer than James Milner and this commodity would be warmly welcomed at Villa Park – far too often last season, their central midfield was bypassed and towards the end of the season, as tiredness struck, rush football became more commonplace. Ireland would provide nous in passing that Milner cannot produce – Milner’s passing is awkward and sufficient at best and whilst he made the loss of Gareth Barry minimal, this move may come at the right time. Not only would it bring the possibility of a fresh tactical outlet, it would make perfect business sense. Milner, for all his merits, is not worth £30m and such a fee would only be possible this summer – his contract is slowly dwindling towards its conclusion and his form may diminish considerably next season. Then, in this writer’s opinion, there is the most important consequence of Milner’s potential sale.
As has been suggested in many several quarters, most notably Tottenham Hotspurs boss Harry Redknapp, the sale of Milner could kick-start the market. Aston Villa are currently working on a ‘sell to buy’ policy, enforced by chairman Randy Lerner’s inability to subsidise O’Neill’s transfer dealings Due to this stance, O’Neill is having to entertain the idea of selling a plethora of fringe players. At a club like Manchester City i.e. a club blessed with a large squad, this would not be massively problematic. However, with Villa’s scarce squad, periphery players are important if a first team member were ever to be injured. In an ideal situation, O’Neill would have money that would allow him to keep players like Luke Young, Steve Sidwell et al. The sale of Milner would bring about that scenario.
And there is the crux of this whole transfer saga. If Milner is sold, Villa could bring in any number of players (depending on the echelons of the market targeted by O’Neill). Milner’s sale would mean that Martin O’Neill could afford to keep out of favour team members – the most important of these being Luke Young. Young, who moved to Villa this time two years ago, has found himself in his preferred position at right back far less than he would have anticipated – indeed, far less than he should be. Since the death of his half-brother and niggling injury, Young has lost his place at right-back to Spaniard Carlos Cu