Downing set to seal £12m move to Villa
Thursday 16 July 2009
Stewart Downing arrived on a crutch for a medical at Aston Villa yesterday but that obvious complication is not expected to prevent the 24-year-old winger's £12m transfer from Middlesbrough going through within the next 48 hours.
Villa are clearly aware of the severity of Downing's injury – he fractured a bone in his foot against Villa in May following a challenge from Stilian Petrov – but the prospect of him being unavailable until October or November has not deterred manager Martin O'Neill. If able to play in October, Downing will miss only the first seven of Villa's Premier League matches.
Should the Villa medical reveal anything unforeseen then there is a chance the deal could collapse or be postponed until January. However, there is said to be no possibility of Downing withdrawing voluntarily.
Despite having been courted by Liverpool and Tottenham over the past year, Downing has privately informed friends that he is hugely impressed with O'Neill and the Villa set-up.
Spurs had been thought to be the next destination for Downing. In January, he submitted a written transfer request shortly before Tottenham made a bid in the region of Villa's, but the Middlesbrough chairman, Steve Gibson, refused to sell in the hope Boro would avoid relegation. Downing, though, was informed that he would be free to reconsider his situation once the season ended. Even though he sustained his injury in the penultimate game of the season, there was little prospect of Downing staying with Boro relegated to the Championship.
When fit, Downing is expected to play on the left for Villa and his anticipated arrival has raised question marks over Ashley Young's position. Once again Tottenham are said to be interested in Young. It is unlikely O'Neill would countenance any offer for Young.
But Downing can also play more centrally – he did so to good effect with Boro – and to that end, Downing can be viewed as a partial replacement for Gareth Barry. The Downing fee of £12m is the same Villa received from Manchester City for Barry in May. England fans underwhelmed by Downing's international form may quibble with the size of the transfer fee, but while he has not scored for his country – nor did he for Boro in the league last season – the previous season Downing was the club's top scorer with nine. It is a fine return for a winger and in a confident side like Villa, he will score again.
Tuncay Sanli, scorer of a quarter of Boro's 28 league goals last season, is another Teessider connected with Villa. And there is speculation O'Neill will follow the deal for Downing with an attempt to sign Sylvain Distin from Portsmouth. The 31-year-old defender has one year left on his contract and is available at around £2.5m, but Villa have ruled out a move for Sporting Lisbon midfielder Miguel Veloso.
* Uefa has reduced the European bans handed to Chelsea striker Didier Drogba and defender Jose Bosingwa.
Both players' suspensions have been reduced by one game on appeal. Drogba will now miss the first three of Chelsea's Champions League games this season and Bosingwa the first two.
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