After much posturing, recrimination and and even a veiled threat, it looks as though the protracted transfer that would bring James Milner to the club is nearing a conclusion with The Guardian stating that negotiations had been completed and the MEN reporting that Milner arrived in Manchester for his medical this afternoon.
Further to this, Roberto Mancini confirmed at Mario Balotelli's press conference that he hopes for completion prior to the Europa League game on Thursday:
"I hope we can close it between today and tomorrow. I think that Milner is a good player, an English player which is important. I think that Milner can play in different positions....we have today and tomorrow to close the deal."
Those that have followed the blog of late will now I have flip-flopped over the merits of signing Milner, but with deal all but signed off I am inclined to think it is a good move.
Roberto Mancini spoke of his versatility, but (although only one game) I thought for the majority of the performance at Totenham a player with the drive that Milner possesses was sorely needed in the centre of midfield and would have augmented well with Nigel de Jong and Yaya Toure.
Milner possesses pace and strength and will be a solid acquisition. He has developed tremendously over the past twelve months and does look to be moving into the ascendancy as a player, his star on the rise whilst Ireland's has most definitely slipped since his golden season in 2007/08.
Milner's ability to contribute in terms of both goals and assists is perhaps better than thought and he certainly outperformed Stephen Ireland in this regard during 2009/10, and despite the plethora of midfielders do think he does offer something different than the other options we have.
Of course the fee is high (coming in at £26 million with the inclusion of Ireland), there has been an element of a 'hardball' approach by the club which has effectively forced Aston Villa to accept less than their initial valuation of £30 million. Although in comparison to elsewhere, we have seen Real Madrid land Mesut Ozil and Sami Khadera for roughly the same fee as it took to land Milner.
The deal looks to have finally go the go ahead when negotiations over Stephen Ireland's pay off were concluded (Daniel Taylor reporting he settled for half of the £2 million he was looking for), and putting aside the merits of whether the decision to call time on Ireland's career at the club (blogpost to come the next day or so on that), the manner in which he was effectively forced was not pleasant to see. Players are often accused of forcing and engineering moves, but it is clear in this instance that the club were hell bent on seeing Ireland depart and you do wonder if a by product of the new 25-man squad rule will be that clubs will use it as leverage to move unwanted players.
Whilst the signing of Milner will be too late for him to take part in the Europa League qualifier, he should be ready for the game against Liverpool next Monday evening.