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Milner hands Newcastle transfer request

Newcastle have confirmed that midfielder James Milner has handed in a transfer request.

The 22-year-old has been the subject of transfer rumours linking him with a move to both Liverpool and Aston Villa in recent weeks.

He signed a four-year contract last summer and Magpies boss Kevin Keegan has spoken of his admiration for him, but it appears the England Under-21 international has his sights set on a move elsewhere.

A statement on the club's website read: "Newcastle can confirm that it has received a written transfer request from James Milner.

"The club is very disappointed that James sees his footballing future as away from St James' Park. He is a valued member of the squad and it is only a year ago that he signed an improved long-term contract.

"We have yet to receive an offer for James that has matched our valuation of him."

The statement on www.nufc.co.uk, continued: "However, should such an offer be received then the club will be reluctantly forced to consider it, given James' apparent desire to leave."

Newspaper reports have suggested Villa boss Martin O'Neill is ready to table a £9m offer for the player.

Milner spent the 2005-06 season on loan at Villa Park and could be set for a return to the Midlands side although Rafael Benitez is also keen on the player.

Newcastle's valuation of Milner may put Benitez off pursuing the transfer, however.

Milner has played in all three of Newcastle's games this season and scored in the Magpies' 3-2 win over Coventry City in the Carling Cup second round last night.

He signed from Leeds, where he made his debut at 16, for £3.6m in 2004.