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Villa agree fee for Downing

Middlesbrough and Aston Villa have agreed a fee of around £12million for England winger Stewart Downing.

Press Association Sport understands the two clubs have struck a deal which could see the 24-year-old midfielder leave his home-town club for the midlands.

Downing is currently recovering from foot surgery which is likely to sideline him until October at the earliest, but has been promised by chairman Steve Gibson that he can leave if a big club comes in at the right price.

The player, who will celebrate his 25th birthday next week, has been at the centre of intense speculation for much of the summer despite his injury, with long-time admirers Tottenham and Everton also having been linked with him.

However, Villa have emerged as suitors for both Downing and Turkey international Tuncay Sanli in recent weeks amid speculation that they were ready to launch a £20million joint swoop.

He is arguably the club's most saleable player in the wake of a relegation which will drastically reduce their revenue.

Downing looked to be on his way to White Hart Lane in January when Spurs launched their latest bid to sign him, but Gibson put his foot down and insisted the Academy graduate was not for sale.

However, he did strike a gentlemen's agreement with the player that he could go during the summer if the circumstances were right, and the drop to the Coca-Cola Championship meant that was all but inevitable.

The situation has been complicated by the injury, which ironically was suffered in a clash with Villa's Stiliyan Petrov in the penultimate game of the campaign.

He saw his specialist last week and was given the go-ahead to step up his rehabilitation, and he will return in September to have a screw removed before he can return to full training.

But the news that there was no lasting damage was encouragement to potential buyers, and it would be no surprise if others entered the race now that it has begun in earnest.

Southgate was non-committal last week when asked if he expected Downing to remain on Teesside until January.

He said: "I have no idea, really. He won't be fit for the start of the season, but it depends whether clubs want to take him now.

"Come January, there might be four or five other clubs involved.

"That's for other clubs to decide. We will just focus on getting him fit as quickly as we can."

That said, there is little doubt that an injection of £12million would strengthen Southgate's hand as he attempts to rebuild his squad for life in the Championship.