After a long summer saga that teetered between tedium and annoyance, James Milner finally completed his move to from Aston Villa to Manchester City late Wednesday afternoon. The move, believed to be worth around £16M plus Stephen Ireland, ended a transfer window of interminable speculation over the future of Milner and, in the process, opened up the possibility of more transfers for Aston Villa. Interim manager Kevin MacDonald did not rule out the eventuality of a new player arriving before the end of August, although he seemed to be more than content to have Ireland at the club: “It’s
Due to the reported dearth of funds at Villa Park, Chairman Randy Lerner may be reluctant to spend the Milner money, particularly if it means handing said money over to a temporary manager. Were Lerner to give MacDonald money to spend, it may be a telling sign that he is willing to give the caretaker the job on a full time basis. That being said, this move, along with the victory over West Ham, is another event that will undoubtedly go some way to moving on from the loss of former manager, Martin O’Neill.
Whilst from a myopic point of view, Villa fans will see the purely sensible business aspect of this deal, and the playing staff gains in Ireland, the whole saga shows the difference between Aston Villa, a club rooted in the idealism of sensibility and steady progression, against the rather more reckless and fast approach currently taking place at Manchester City. Since the arrival of Randy Lerner, Villa have seen their ambitions change and on the whole, the club has progressed very well – three sixth place finishes, two trips to Wembley and a few short lived trips to Europe all seem like good returns for the money Lerner has financed the club with. City on the other hand, have spent more this summer than Villa have done in the entire time Lerner has been in charge – they have a clear aim to become the world’s best as fast as possible and whilst on paper their squad is highly impressive, it would not be massively surprising if the cohesion of Villa’s playing staff outlasted City’s over the course of the season. That is essentially the difference between two clubs involved in one of the most protracted transfers in Premier League history. James Milner has moved to a club that do not need him as much as Aston Villa did. Consequently he has jeopardised his place in the England team – England coach Fabio Capello has insinuated that a player needs to be playing regularly to be selected for England and whilst that was not a problem at Villa, Milner may struggle to compete with the eight first-team midfielders currently playing for City. Ireland, on the other hand, will presumably fit straight into Villa’s central midfield alongside captain Stiliyan Petrov.
It is too early to say whether this move will be a good one for both parties in the long term but the reaction of this writer is that City have dealt Aston Villa a very good hand – money that will stabilise the club and a player that on his day is arguably better than Milner. Whilst Milner will offer nothing new to a City midfield already blessed with tenacity in Nigel De Jong, Patrick Vieira and Yaya Toure, Ireland will be a breath of fresh air at Villa Park. Think back and remember the last time you saw an Aston Villa midfielder split a defence open with a pass – it is an anomaly at Villa Park and something that Ireland will hopefully bring to a side that lacks creativity in the centre. As City sign a player on the grounds that he is young and English, Villa in turn receive an abundance of money and a player that will really change their squad. That is the price of money – City manager Roberto Mancini has money to spend on players he doesn’t really need and in the process, he may have inadvertently benefited Villa, a club that are now equipped to rival them this season.