The summer’s most protracted transfer deal has finally reached a conclusion after James Milner sealed a reported £26M move from Aston Villa to big spending Manchester City. Forming part of the deal was £8M rated Stephen Ireland who moved in the opposite direction.

Energetic Milner will add dynamism to Manchester City’s midfield and, with world class holding midfielders in the shape of Nigel de Jong and Yaya Toure providing protection, if used correctly has the opportunity to shine at Eastlands. With the Premier League introducing a quota system from 1st September, Milner’s acquisition is important for City in two aspects: Firstly his versatility, Milner is competent in a number of positions; secondly he is homegrown.

Roberto Mancini will hope Milner can continue where he left off at Villa and develop into a goalscoring midfielder who can be the heartbeat of a team. The former Leeds United player’s stamina will also prove crucial in a season where the Citizens will be hoping to fight on four fronts, domestically and in Europe.

The Villains will obviously be disappointed to have lost a player of Milner’s quality, especially to a rival in the fierce race for the illustrious top four, but they will be happy to have more or less doubled their investment from two years ago when they signed the former Leeds United trainee from Newcastle United for £12M. The Villa hierarchy will also be content that in Ireland they already have an adequate replacement for the departed England international.

Villa have needed craft and guile in midfield for a number of years and Ireland could be the player to supply the spark to a team frequently described as effective but one-dimensional. The Irishman is the type of player to get on the ball and make things happen, the type of individual the Birmingham outfit have missed since Paul Merson wore Claret and Blue. 

Ireland’s treatment in his final days at the Citizens left a sour taste in the mouth as the Manchester outfit’s former Player of the Year was effectively forced out the club he had been at since he was a boy. The midfielder even faced the ignominy of training with the reserves after he was informed he would not be part of Mancini’s 25 strong first team squad. The Midlanders will hope that Ireland arrives in Birmingham determined to prove a point to his former employers and hits the ground running in the heart of the Claret and Blue engine room. 

England international Milner’s move to the north west is a gamble; he only has to speak to Craig Bellamy to find out how a change of manager can suddenly lead to a spell on the sidelines and an eventual exit from the club. Despite this the Yorkshireman’s decision to join the Arab Revolution in Manchester is understandable, both from a financial and a career progression point of view. However, he will be all too aware that those in the corridors of power at the City of Manchester Stadium are only interested in success and with the size of transfer fee involved, only the arrival of silverware at Eastlands will deem the move to be a success for Milner and Manchester City.

As for Villa, they coped admirably with the loss of Gareth Barry – also to Manchester City – last season with Milner ironically becoming the player to fill the void left by their former captain. They will be confident they can cope with the loss of their star player again, but the midfielder’s departure is likely to lead to a change in the style of play observers of Villa have become accustomed to in recent years.

The Villains direct, counter-attacking style has been hugely effective away from home, but less so when teams defend in numbers at Villa Park. The West Midlands outfit have dropped valuable points in recent seasons through a failure to break teams down at Villa Park. Ireland’s introduction into midfield should see Villa become more effective in possession, allowing a more patient approach against teams who are happy to sit deep and soak up pressure.