On July 6th news broke that Aston Villa had rejected an offer of £15 million for their creative winger Stewart Downing. The English midfielder arrived at Villa Park from Middlesbrough in 2009 for a price of £12 million and with Downing having enjoyed his best season yet in the Premier League the Villans are not keen to let him go for any less than £20 million.
However, with Ashley Young having recently departed Villa Park to join reigning Premier League champions Manchester United, it looks like Aston Villa may not even be willing to accept an offer matching that valuation. This could result in a stand off of sorts between the two clubs; Liverpool want him and Aston Villa want to keep him. But where will Stewart Downing be playing his football next season?
First of all, it is not difficult to see why Aston Villa would want to retain the services of their No. 6; the man was on sparkling form last season. His pace, vision and quick crossing meant he provided great service for his team-mates. Plus with 8 goals of his own last season his finishing is not too shabby either. Downing even scored the last goal of Villa’s Premier League season when he netted against Liverpool (ironically the team he now wants to join) for a 1-0 win.
Villa have already lost one winger to Manchester United and could be in a spot of bother if they sell another. After all, the natural width to their team was a real strength in their 2010-2011 campaign. Certainly striker Darren Bent will not want to see Downing go, as Young did, since the kind of service these two brought from the flanks is what a striker of Bent’s style thrives upon.
However, the word is that the 26 year old Downing has requested a move to Anfield and rejected contract talks with his current club. This is a bad sign for new manager Alex McLeish as he cannot force a player to stay at the club if they do not want to be there. For a start, it would mean that Downing would not play at his best next season and could be disinterested or unmotivated. Downing has already said that Villa’s performance last season was “disappointing” with the Villans finishing ninth and a move to Liverpool, a club whose future looks bright, is obviously appealing to him.
He also recognises that a move to Merseyside could help him to secure a permanent spot in the England International first team. However, if the already unpopular McLeish cannot hold onto Downing then his tenure is going to become even more difficult.
As for Liverpool, it is obvious too why manager Kenny Dalglish would want to acquire the services of Downing. Liverpool last season often lacked creativity in midfield and they certainly lacked width in their playing style. Wingers are a priority for “King Kenny” during this transfer period, not least because Liverpool now have a tall, powerful centre forward in Andy Carroll, but with no wingers to supply him with the crosses he would pounce on.
Dalglish has already purchased Jordan Henderson, a player likely to play on the right wing in the new Liverpool set up, for a fee of roughly £16 million. Now he wants a left sided player too and the Aston Villa No. 6 fits the bill perfectly. A bid of £20 million for Downing will likely be made very soon by The Reds.
So, I fully expect Liverpool to meet Aston Villa’s valuation of Downing over the next couple of weeks. Therefore, it is going to be up to McLeish and Villa whether or not to let Downing depart the club to join Anfield. I think it is most likely that they will allow their No. 6 to go rather than try and persuade a player to stick around when he has no desire to. Alex McLeish already faces a lot of backlash from the Villa fans since he arrived from bitter rivals Birmingham City. If and when he lets Downing go, there will be a lot more for him to endure.
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