James Milner should stay with mentor Martin O’Neill
James Milner would be foolish to ditch the home comforts of Villa Park for the glitz and glamour of Eastlands.
Manchester City’s pursuit of the 24-year-old has been relentless, with a big money move appearing inevitable at one point this summer. But the deal has stalled in recent weeks with Villa determined to keep hold of their England star.
The development of last season’s PFA Young Player of the Year, who Villa are valuing at £30m, can be accredited to Martin O’Neill. It was the wily Northern Irishman who made the ingenious decision to switch his prized asset from the wing into the centre of midfield alongside the experienced Stylian Petrov.
As the Premier League witnessed the blossoming of one England’s brightest talents, Milner became a pivotal figure for Villa. His dynamic play and creative instinct led to a return of seven goals and 12 assists last season.
O’Neill’s side once again came agonisingly close to Champions League qualification for the second consecutive season and reached the League Cup final at Wembley. The former Celtic boss is building a balanced team capable of challenging for the top four and in domestic cup competitions.
Admittedly the financial clout of City’s owners means Roberto Mancini’s side will presumably be contenders on both the domestic and European fronts. However, it is difficult to envisage Milner continuing to flourish amid the intense competition for places at Eastlands.
In Milner’s preferred central role his rivals at City would include Gareth Barry, Michael Johnson, Nigel De Jong, Patrick Viera, Stephen Ireland and Yaya Toure.
There is an equally large number of candidates to fill the berth on the wings for City with Adam Johnson, David Silva, Sean Wright-Phillips, Craig Bellamy and Robinho all competing for a place in Mancini’s starting eleven.
Milner should take note from Stephen Ireland’s regression following the influx of players at Eastlands. The former Ireland international looked irresistible two seasons ago and was at the fulcrum of the City midfield.
But since the arrival of big money purchases such as Barry and De Jong, he has struggled with form and injuries.
Milner’s development would likely be hampered by a move to Manchester. A regular starting place is not guaranteed and at this stage in the midfielder’s career, it would be far from an ideal situation.
With consideration to his fledging senior career with the national team, a move to City is riddled with uncertainly and could prove detrimental to his potential progression into an England regular.