According to reports in this morning’s press, Manchester City are to make their first foray into this summer’s transfer market by lodging an opening bid of £24 million for Aston Villa midfielder – and recently crowned PFA Young Player of the Year – James Milner.
City are mindful that an impressive World Cup could inflate Milner’s price further and will move quickly – possibly within the next 48 hours according to The Daily Mail – to, at the very least, declare their interest in procuring the 24-year-old.
Milner has enjoyed a fine campaign with Villa this season, and has been attracting interest from nearly all of the Premier League’s elite. Should City submit an offer, it is widely expected that both Chelsea and Manchester United will have their hands forced into following suit, resulting in a potential ‘bidding war’ breaking out for the former Leeds and Newcastle man.
However, Villa would be understandably reluctant to part with their influential star and are understood to be willing to hold out for a fee up-and-above the £30 million mark before they even begin to entertain the notion of letting Milner move on – a price tag that would see him become one of the most expensive signings in English football.
Don’t get me wrong, I happen to think James Milner is a good player, a very good player even – but is he really ‘£30 million’ good? In short, no.
His guile and work-rate are laudable, his commitment not in question, but I would wager that he is missing that extra spark of creativity and technique that separates the £10-15 million players from the £25-30 million players.
He’s had a wonderful season and his recent plaudits and awards are well deserved, but one look at Man City’s (and United and Chelsea’s) squad shows a wealth of incumbent midfield talent. They have holding men (De Jong, Kompany), box-to-boxer’s (Ireland, Barry) and wide men (Johnson, Wright-Phillips, Bellamy) in abundance, so Milner may find it difficult to get game-time in the central role he’s excelled so well in at Villa Park this season.
Of course Milner’s versatility has been a key factor in the continual rising of his stock. His ability to fill in on either flank, centrally or even at full-back has meant that he has picked up appearances in games that a less flexible midfielder would have missed out on.
But that is not enough to convince me that we should be talking about him in the same price bracket as a Steven Gerrard or a Frank Lampard. Both the afore-mentioned players consistently show that extra flash of quality that Milner just seems, to my eye, to be lacking.
For what it’s worth, I’d rather see him stick with Villa for the time being. Martin O’Neill has declared that he is trim his squad of the dead wood (Sidwell, Reo-Coker, Shorey) and use the funds raised to overhaul his squad in an effort to smash that Champions League glass ceiling that Villa seem to have hit over the past few seasons – and Milner could be a central figure in that overhaul.
He is currently in a position to legitimately see a side be built around him and, after his talismanic performances last season, he would seemingly make the ideal lynch-pin to do so.
However, a player is only worth what a club is willing to pay and, with Man City and Chelsea involved, who knows what that might end up being?