O'Neill quits over transfer budget and Milner sale

US coach Bradley is favourite for Villa job after Lerner refuses to back manager's spending plan

Martin O'Neill's difficult relationship with the Aston Villa owner, Randy Lerner, finally cracked yesterday when O'Neill left the club just five days before the start of the new Premier League season following long- running disagreements over transfer funds for new players.

It has been an open secret in football this summer that Villa have been unwilling to move forward on the acquisition of players because O'Neill had not come to an agreement over the transfer funds to be made available to him.

While O'Neill wanted investment in transfers again this summer – he believed that Villa had to spend £30m each summer just to maintain their position – Lerner and the club's hierarchy felt that they had already paid out significant sums on transfer fees and wages. They also believed that they had paid out for certain players who had not gone on to establish themselves in the first team.

O'Neill's relationship with Lerner deteriorated last season with the club forced to deny reports in March he had walked out. By Friday he was not even on the touchline for the friendly against Valencia. In O'Neill's departure statement it was telling that he omitted the American chairman from those he thanked for their service.

The imminent sale of James Milner to Manchester City in a deal worth £24m has also increased the tension at the club. Last week, when Milner was left out the Villa squad for the Valencia game as a precursor to the deal, O'Neill raised doubts around the assumption that Lerner would allow him to reinvest money from Milner's sale. O'Neill said: "Did he?" when it was put to him that Lerner had made such assurances.

O'Neill added: "I need to speak to the chairman. For a number of days in this transfer saga with Manchester City, you have known my position in terms of what I have been advocating and thinking about. But it really has been the chairman [Lerner] and chief executive [Paul Faulkner] who have been dealing with it."

The Villa board has told O'Neill in the past that it cannot sustain the level of investment that Lerner has made in the club in recent years and have pointed to players signed by the manager who have not made the grade. Those include Curtis Davies (£8m), Nigel Reo-Coker (£7m), Steven Sidwell (£5m), Nicky Shorey (£3.5m), Emile Heskey (£3.5m) and Habib Beye (£2.5m).

There have also been suggestions that Ashley Young could be another potential sale this summer – with Tottenham Hotspur his destination – although that deal would still require a lot of negotiation.

The United States national team coach, Bob Bradley, was installed as a favourite to succeed O'Neill – potentially an intriguing move from Lerner. In the meantime, the reserve team coach Kevin MacDonald will take charge of the Villa team for the game against West Ham on Saturday.

Lerner, who inherited the then recently appointed O'Neill when he bought the club from Doug Ellis in 2006, has invested around £90m of his own money in players. In that time, the club have twice broken their transfer record in signing Milner for £12m from Newcastle United two years ago and then Stewart Downing for roughly the same price last summer. Ashley Young cost £9.65m from Watford in January 2007.

In return O'Neill has delivered three successive sixth-place finishes in the Premier League but the rise of Manchester City, in particular, has had an effect on their attempts to break into the top four. As well as Milner, City also signed the then Villa captain Gareth Barry last summer.

Regarded as a potential successor to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United – and only just overlooked for the England manager's job in 2006 – it remains to be seen how O'Neill's departure from Villa will affect his long-term prospects. He is one of the brightest managers in the Premier League and, at 58, he is coming into arguably his prime years as a coach.

O'Neill said last night that he had enjoyed his time at the club "immensely". He said: "It's obviously a wrench to be leaving such a magnificent club. I would like to pay tribute to the players, my coaching staff and the supporters for all the support and encouragement they have given both the club and me during my time as manager. I wish them all the best for the future. I will obviously be assisting the club with regard to the handover of my duties."

The Villa chief executive, Paul Faulkner, said: "The club would like to thank Martin for the great work he has done at Aston Villa over the past four years. He has helped to establish the club in the upper echelons of the Premier League, has taken us to Wembley and we have qualified for European competition for the past three seasons. We wish him the best in the future."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform