Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill has opened the way for James Milner to join Manchester City after telling the England midfielder he can leave if the club gets a suitable offer.
Villa have already turned down one offer for Milner from City in the region of 20 million pounds, but O'Neill is now willing to allow a deal to go through if the Eastlands outfit increase their bid. O'Neill's hand had been forced because he knows Milner wants to move to big-spending City and, with the 24-year-old refusing to discuss a new contract, he is in danger of being left with an unsettled player.
O'Neill, speaking at a press conference ahead of Villa's friendly with Bohemians in Dublin on Saturday, said: "I had a conversation with James before the World Cup and he intimated that he'd like to go. City made an offer but it did not meet our valuation. I'm sure matters will be resolved soon."
Milner told O'Neill before the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, where he started three of England's four games, that he wanted to leave and the Villa boss has not spoken to the player since. Villa are believed to value Milner at around 30-million pounds (45.7-million dollars) and O'Neill's declaration is a clear message to City to up their offer.
"There is still a doubt really as to what is happening to James Milner," O'Neill said. "There is a difference of valuation at this moment between the buying club and the selling club. That may well be resolved and if that is the case then absolutely fine. Although I haven't spoken to James, he has played in the World Cup and the rest really is pretty well straightforward...If a fee is agreed, at the end of the day, the player can leave."
Part of the puzzle
City have already signed midfielders Yaya Toure and David Silva during the close-season and manager Roberto Mancini said this week he would not be rushed in his pursuit of Milner, but the club's Abu Dhabi-based owners will have no trouble finding the cash to land Milner.
"Manchester City have put a valuation on the player," O'Neill added. "It doesn't match our particular valuation but we will see. That part of things I am leaving to other members of the football club - the chief executive and the owner - and at the end of it all it is a matter of resolving it."
O'Neill would use the money from Milner's sale to strengthen his squad, with West Ham midfielder Scott Parker one of the likely targets.