James Milner has edged closer to a return to Villa Park with his relationship with Newcastle United reaching a new low.
The 22-year-old, earlier this summer the subject of a failed £9 million bid from Villa manager Martin O’Neill, has handed in a transfer request after being denied a new contract and now seems set to move away from the North East.
That could pave the way for a second stint at Villa Park having spent the 2005-06 season on loan under David O’Leary.
One of O’Neill’s first acts when he arrived at Villa that summer was to try and expedite a permanent switch only for Newcastle to pull the plug when it seemed the deal was all but done.
That does not seem likely to happen now following the latest development in which Newcastle announced the player’s desire to leave on their website only for Milner’s advisors at the Professional Footballers’ Association to issue a clarification on theirs.
Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan held talks with club owner Mike Ashley in which squad strengthening and Milner’s position were thought to be on the agenda.
That prompted United to reveal that Milner had asked for a move, express their disappointment in the player and pointedly remark it had only been 12 months since he last signed a new deal.
That clearly enraged the PFA’s deputy chief executive Mick McGuire.
“The facts are that James’ transfer request was actually handed in on Wednesday 20th August, at which point it was asked by Newcastle United to keep the matter private,” his pronouncement read.
“The request was given because the player was looking for an improvement on his contract that reflected his development and his value to the club. There is a meeting between the owner and all relevant people at the club today [Wednesday] when we believed James request was to be discussed.
“To clarify the situation, James did sign a contract 12 months ago. However, this agreement was reached with the club nearly 12 months previous at the point in which Newcastle had agreed to sell James to Aston Villa on transfer deadline day 2006 before cancelling the agreement at the 11th hour.
“Since then he has played over 80 games for Newcastle United. All James wanted was a deal that reflected his development and that was in-line with Newcastle United’s transfer valuation of him.
“Whilst James does have three years left on his current agreement. It is common practice that when a young player signs a long-term contract, this is reviewed and improved on a regular basis with a player’s development but equally it protects the club’s position in regard to their transfer value.
“Although the transfer request was handed in seven days ago James has been professional in keeping the matter private whilst giving strong performances for Newcastle United.”