Belfast Telegraph

Manchester City look to seal James Milner deal after O’Neill admission

Manchester City will be confident of agreeing a price in the region of £25m for James Milner after Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill claimed the England midfielder wants to leave the Midlands club.

While another long-term transfer target, Wolfsburg striker Edin Dzeko, maintains he will reject City in favour of a move to Juventus, the Eastlands club finally received some positive news on Milner yesterday.

Villa were quick to reject City's offer of £18m plus £2m in additional payments in May but, although Milner, 24, was publicly non-committal on the subject, he also turned down the opportunity to discuss extending his contract beyond 2012.

The Midlands club were thought to be holding out for £30m but O'Neill's revelation that Milner told him he wants to leave a couple of months ago and expects the situation to be “resolved soon” suggests a softening in that stance.

Although City have limitless cash, they are desperate to avoid being seen as an easy touch and only on Wednesday manager Roberto Mancini, who is also hoping to sign Inter's Mario Balotelli, was expressing his frustration at the prices being asked of City.

But at least there appeared to be a breakthrough with Milner, who returns from a post-World Cup holiday next week.

“I had a conversation with James before the World Cup and he intimated that he'd like to go,” O'Neill said.

“City made an offer but it did not meet our valuation. I'm sure matters will be resolved soon. James is back next week having had an extended holiday.”

O'Neill, who has spent £179 million since arriving at Villa Park in 2006, has been told by owner Randy Lerner that he generate his own transfer funds and therefore can not afford to show the kind of stubbornness that fought off Liverpool's interest in Gareth Barry two summers ago.

He eventually sold Barry to City last summer and, having accepted that Milner wants to depart, it appears O'Neill has little choice but to push a deal through to fund moves for West Ham's Scott Parker and Celtic's Aiden McGeady.

He may also consider asking City to include midfielder Stephen Ireland or defender Nedum Onuoha in the Milner deal.

Ireland is expected to leave Eastlands this summer and has also been interesting Sunderland, while there are also question marks over the future of Onuoha, who was fiercely critical of Mancini in May.

With David Silva, Yaya Toure and Jerome Boateng already recruited at a cost of £60 million, Lazio have confirmed that Serbian defender Aleksander Kolarov is on the verge of completing a £17 million move to City, who play their first pre-season friendly against Sporting Lisbon in New York in the early hours of tomorrow morning.

“Kolarov to Manchester City? There are no problems,” Lazio sporting director Igli Tare said. “Lazio has already done what it had to do. We are waiting for developments in the coming days.

“It is not important if the figure is 20million euro or not, what counts is the willingness of both parties to close the deal.”

City have remained cautious on powerful forward Dzeko, with Wolfsburg demanding £32 million for the Bosnian but now they look to have missed out to Juventus.

The Turin club have yet to agree a fee for Dzeko but he said: “I will reject Manchester City once again if Juventus really want me.”

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