ASTON VILLA have sent Manchester City a hands-off message over their pursuit of James Milner after holding showdown talks with the England midfielder.
Villa described discussions with the player as “amicable” after he returned to training yesterday for the first time since the World Cup.
But they warned they plan to take Milner on a pre-season trip to Portugal tomorrow regardless of his desire to join City.
The Eastlands side have already had one bid of around £20m turned down but are expected to return with an improved offer for the 24-year-old.
“James Milner trained with the rest of the Villa squad today at Bodymoor Heath. He and the manager, along with chief executive Paul Faulkner and the player’s representative, Matthew Buck, had an amicable conversation,” read a club statement.
“While James will not play in tomorrow’s game at Walsall, he will fly with the squad to Portugal on Wednesday ahead of the Guadiana Cup in which Villa will compete with Benfica and Feyenoord this weekend.”
City manager Roberto Mancini has admitted his frustration at what he sees as clubs hiking up prices once they know the Abu Dhabi-bankrolled club is interested in a player.
However he is tipped to make another bid around the £24m mark for Milner, which
would represent a 100 per cent profit on Villa’s outlay to Newcastle just two years ago.
Villa look ready to play the long game, knowing that Milner has so far proved reluctant to put pressure on them by declaring his intentions publicly. Manager Martin O’Neill successfully saw off Liverpool’s interest in Gareth Barry in 2008, turning down a bid of £18m because he felt it was insufficient. But he accepted last week that Milner had “intimated” he wanted to follow Barry to City in a conversation that took place before the World Cup.
Tottenham were said to be ready to ambush any City bid for Milner, but Spurs boss Harry Redknapp admitted yesterday a deal for the former Leeds trainee would be beyond his budget.