James Milner, who you may remember as the last truly great box-to-box midfielder Aston Villa have had, is apparently ready to leave Manchester City despite having won two Premier League titles with the club. The England national player could have been worth loads of cash, but instead only returned £10 million and Stephen Ireland when Villa shipped him to City in 2010. I think I can speak for all Villa fans when I say we'd have rather had the extra cash.
But James isn't too happy at City, where he is not getting regular time, despite being one of the few senior England players on their squad. Against Villa two weeks ago he was subbed out in the 60th minute, and when City clinched the title against West Ham, he only saw the pitch in the final twelve minutes of the match. He's one of the better midfielders in the Premier League, but thanks to the depth that City have available, he isn't seeing the time you'd expect him to.
And that brings us back to his desire to move. Apparently he will consider his options during the World Cup, but is ready to seek a transfer when he gets back, even to the point of taking a cut on his £90,000 per week wages. Your typical suitors (Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham) have been augmented by interest from Newcastle.
But what about Aston Villa? Milner is still beloved by most fans here, and there is a very clear and obvious need for a player of both his type and caliber. Imagine Milner playing alongside Fabian Delph and suddenly your worries about the midfield will float away.
The obvious sticking point will be money. Villa cannot afford his wages, and even if they knock it down to £60,000 per week that's a bit steep. Plus there is the question of what sort of fee he would take to acquire. (Maybe we can convince City to do a money/player swap. We've got Darren Bent! Seems fair after they sent us Ireland.) From a financial standpoint, it seems like a slim chance that Milner will be in B6 anytime soon. But it's a move that would make so much sense from a football perspective that it's hard not to want it.
If there is any hope here, it is Milner's reported timetable. If he's waiting until after the World Cup, there is a chance that Villa may have been bought by then. If they are a club flush with new cash, it would be a signing that would be a great move. The team would get a much-needed piece, and the fans would see the return of a hero (thus making the new owners look amazing). I'm not one to dream too much when it comes to this team, but boy do I hope this happens.