Villa will claim a good deal, says Chief Sports Writer Hyder Jawad but it is still a big risk...
When Nolberto Solano arrived at Villa Park in January 2004, David O'Leary marvelled at the player's "great attitude" in agreeing to leave Newcastle United for a significant reduction in wages.
In the 20 months since, Solano has been easily Villa's most astute and creative player, doing much to ensure that last season did not turn into a relegation battle.
It was hard to imagine Solano leaving the club under a cloud. It was hard to imagine O'Leary allowing him to leave. And yet, on a transfer deadline day that was overshadowed by Michael Owen's move to Newcastle, Solano's story was the one that caused the most incredulity around Villa Park.
Villa will no doubt trot out their usual public-relations inanity about how they did the best out of the deal. Solano returned to Newcastle last night for £1.5 million, and Villa were able to take James Milner on loan until the end of the season. Public opinion is sure to be divided.
Milner remains a talented player, having flourished as a 15- year- old with Leeds United under David O'Leary. But he has not yet made the progress expected of him, and it is significant that Newcastle were content to see him loaned out.
How did we get here? How did Solano, popular among players and supporters, secure himself a return to Tyneside? What initiated O'Leary's change of heart?
Turn the clocks back a couple of weeks to when Liverpool, the European champions, decided that Solano might be a suitable candidate to ease their problems on the right of midfield.
Solano was intrigued. After all, which self-respecting player would not want to play for the team that had won the European Cup just three months before? Liverpool could offer Solano a season in the Uefa Champions League; Villa could only offer him the hope of European football in 2006-07.
Solano is human. His interest in Liverpool, as publicly expressed a few days later, should not have been seen as an insult to Villa. It is not as if he expressed any desire to leave Villa or, indeed, return to Newcastle.
"Liverpool have good taste," O'Leary said but these words did not conceal some underlying problems. By the end of the week, O'Leary was hinting that any player who did not want to play for Villa could leave.
O'Leary was speaking generically but everybody knew that he was referring to Solano. And now, whatever the truth, Solano will be seen as the player who initiated his own move away from Villa Park. In the PR battle, he is the big loser, even if that does not necessarily make him the guilty party.
Liverpool never came back for Solano. Instead, they agreed to sign Simao Sabrosa from Benfica for £10 million, before the move broke down last night. But Newcastle sniffed that Solano, popular on Tyneside, might be available and they made an offer to Villa.
The first offer, believed to be £1 million, was rejected but a second of £1.5 million - and an agreement that Milner could move in the opposite direction on loan - was accepted. By 7pm, Solano was in the North East passing a medical and effectively severing ties with Villa.
One might suggest that it was O'Leary who saved Solano's career at a time when the player was foundering under Sir Bobby Robson and desperate to leave Newcastle.
But Robson is no longer with Newcastle - Graeme Souness is now the manager - and it seems that Solano just fancied another crack as a member of the playing staff at St James' Park.
It is probably unwise of Solano to move back to Newcastle. He is on a hiding to nothing and is unlikely to be as effective this season as he was prior to 2004. He has much to lose. Villa have also taken a risk because, whatever O'Leary will try to say, his squad has few creative players and now the right of midfield has become a problem position.
True, Solano is 31 and past his best. Milner is younger, more impressionable, and keen to prove that the hype of his childhood was not misplaced.
But one cannot ignore the perception Villa have given an uneasy goodbye kiss to their best player for what, in these times of inflated transfer fees, is a bargain price.