Young wants to play on biggest stages
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Ashley Young has dropped a clear hint that his future lies away from Aston Villa as the England winger admitted he wants to play in the UEFA Champions League.

Young was captivated by Barcelona's 3-1 win over Manchester United in the Champions League final last weekend and the Catalan club's spell-binding display has whetted his appetite to take on Europe's big guns himself.

The 25-year-old won't get the chance to do that with Villa, who finished well outside the Premier League's top four, but he has attracted interest from Manchester United and Arsenal after a fine season for Villa and some impressive recent performances for England.

Young is out of contract at the end of next season and has refused to commit his future to the midlands club, prompting fears at Villa Park that he will demand a transfer during the close-season. He plans to meet with Villa's hierarchy once he has played for England in their crucial UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier against Switzerland at Wembley on Saturday.

Judging by his desire to have a crack at the Champions League there is little chance of those discussions ending well for Villa. "I watched the final as a player that wishes I was out there playing. As a kid you always want to play in the biggest competitions. I am no different to that," Young said.

I watched the final as a player that wishes I was out there playing. As a kid you always want to play in the biggest competitions.
England and Aston Villa midfielder Ashley Young

"I don't think I've ever doubted my ability. There are going to be people who do and everybody is entitled to their opinion. But my opinion is that I can play in the biggest competitions and the best competitions.

"I always want to challenge myself. And to challenge myself is to play in them big competitions, hopefully one day I'll be able to do that. I've got passion for the game. That's just the way I am. It was a great game to watch and I did find myself sat there thinking I wish I was out there."

Young's commitment to the Villa cause this season has been unquestionable, but Gerard Houllier's team finished closer to relegation than Europe (they finished ninth but only nine points above third from bottom Birmingham) and that isn't good enough for such an ambitious player. "It's always nice to have speculation. But I just have to concentrate and focus on England's game," Young said.

"I've always said I am going to talk to the chairman and talk to the manager after this game. That's where we are. I've always said the same thing. I have given 100 per cent in every game I have played for Aston Villa and I'll continue to do that. I'm away with England now and my focus is fully on England v Switzerland come Saturday."

For most of Fabio Capello's reign, Young has struggled to convince the England coach that he is worthy of more than the occasional substitute appearance. But excellent displays against Denmark and Wales have suddenly transformed Young into a significant figure in Capello's plans.

"It's been a difficult season, a weird season, but I've progressed in the year," Young said. "I always set myself goals and targets from the start of the season and I've reached quite a few of them. I aim to be an international regular. I have always had confidence in my own ability that I can play on this stage."

Downing on the up
Meanwhile, Young's Aston Villa team-mate Stewart Downing has set his sights on finally earning an extended run with England six years after making his international debut. Downing made his first England start for more than two years against Ghana in March and he hopes to get another chance to impress on Saturday.

"It's been frustrating. Maybe I am rebuilding my international career. I've been in and out of squads since I made my debut," Downing said. "But I've been involved in the last two games. I was pleased to get a start so long may that continue.

"I think every trip you go on, you've got to prove yourself and constantly impress the manager. You can't rely on your last game or last performance because one iffy performance and you are out."