The Guardian lead with a story today that we are 'closing in' on Aston Villa's James Milner, and amidst reports of him being linked with a summer move to United, suggests that we are set to make a £24 million offer to secure his signing:
City's Abu Dhabi owners will sanction another lavish spending spree before the start of next season as part of their plans to become a major force in world football and that process will be largely overseen by Brian Marwood, the club's football administrator. Marwood has long admired Milner's qualities as a footballer and also knows the player well from his previous employment as head of UK operations for Nike, which sponsors the 24-year-old.
Villa would be likely to demand double the £12m they paid Newcastle United for Milner two years ago and the player could also expect to double his £45,000-a-week wages at Eastlands.
The report suggests that interest primarily stems from Brian Marwood - a key component of the Player Acquisition Group charged with identifying and recruiting of players - and would follow a similar theme that saw Adam Johnson signed in January, namely, bright young English talent with plenty of upside ahead of them.
The merits of paying £24 million for Milner can be debated for ever and a day, but arguably, if we were willing to pay a similar sum for Joleon Lescott then he would be worth the money (if ever you can really argue that).
Milner has progressed extremely well this season, and will almost certainly land the PFA Young Player of the Year award and can be pencilled in as a definite for England's World Cup squad this summer.
Looking at the make-up of our squad at present, there is a definite gap (whilst we all wait for the return of Michae Johnson at least) for the type of player Milner is. Strong defensively and equally capable of adding an attacking threat, he would add the degree of presence that Gareth Barry has not quite been able to.
I doubt Milner is the type of character to necessarily force a move, but with reports of Aston Villa maybe having to sell before they can add to their squad it is perhaps a deal they would be interested in if they can identify the right replacements - which may come from within our squad, (ie, Richards, Ireland).
Any interest from Milner though would surely be dependent on Champions League qualification, and if we don't make the top four you would have to concede our chances would be significantly reduced, proving that to take that 'next step' so often talked about, it is apparant grasping the opportunity we have this season is ever so important.