Downing set for Liverpool talks
Liverpool are set to open talks with winger Stewart Downing after settling on a fee with Aston Villa. The former Middlesbrough man has been a prime summer target of Reds manager Kenny Dalglish, and bids of £12m and £15m had been refused prior to today's breakthrough. Negotiations can now begin with the player who turns 27 later this month.
The 18-time English champions said in a statement on their official website: "Liverpool have now been granted permission to discuss personal terms with the player and arrange a medical."
Villa manager Alex McLeish had insisted he wanted Downing to stay in the Midlands as Liverpool hovered with intent. But the size of the latest offer, which has not been disclosed by either club but was tonight reported to be worth £20m, proved irresistible given the England international has only two years remaining on his contract.
Downing made it clear only last month that he would not sign an extension with Villa, effectively forcing them to listen to offers. Arsenal were reported over the weekend to have joined the competition for the left-footed player, who can operate on either wing.
However, Villa denied receiving any offer from the Gunners, and barring a late intervention from Arsene Wenger the path appears clear for Downing to move to Anfield.
Should the deal be concluded, the 27-times-capped international would become the third high-profile midfield recruit by Dalglish this summer, following the signings of Jordan Henderson from Sunderland and Charlie Adam from Blackpool.
Foxes snap up Konchesky
News of Downing's anticipated arrival came on the day Liverpool offloaded Paul Konchesky, a summer signing 12 months ago, to Leicester City. With Milan Jovanovic also expected to leave, perhaps for Anderlecht, and others including Christian Poulsen, Alberto Aquilani and David Ngog thought to be available for transfer at the right price, Dalglish is rapidly rebuilding the squad he inherited from Roy Hodgson in January.
The Reds won 4-3 in a pre-season tour match in China PR against Guangdong today, in which both Poulsen and Ngog scored.
Downing is set to leave Villa Park after just two years. Signed by Martin O'Neill, he had a mixed first campaign but has since impressed and was voted Villa's player of the season for 2010/11.