England midfielder James Milner has joined Manchester City FC from fellow UEFA Europa League contenders Aston Villa FC with Stephen Ireland going the other way.
The versatile Milner, 24, has moved to the northwest in a deal reported to be worth €31.5m and signed a five-year contract. He bade farewell to Aston Villa on Saturday with a goal in their season-opening 3-0 Premier League defeat of West Ham United FC, having arrived in Birmingham from Newcastle United FC in 2008.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini said: "I am very happy to have James with us, everybody knows we have admired him for some time. He is an excellent midfielder who can play in a number of positions. This is important for the team, and I am looking forward to seeing him play for us. We have a very strong squad, and this signing is a very important one. "
Milner first gained prominence in 2002 when, aged 16, he made his Leeds United AFC debut and became, at that point, the youngest Premier League goalscorer. He switched to Newcastle in 2004, before going on to play 100 top-flight games for Villa, including a loan spell in 2005/06. He made a record 46 appearances for England Under-21 before his senior debut last year and then featured at the FIFA World Cup.
Ireland, 23, had been with City since 2001 and made 177 outings in all competitions, being voted player of the season in 2008/09. Capped six times by the Republic of Ireland, the creative midfielder has signed a four-year contract at a club whose manager Martin O'Neill resigned last week. Caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald told the BBC: "It is sad to see James go but it is a great boost for the club that Stephen is joining. Stephen is a very gifted, inventive player and links up play probably more than James in many ways."
Villa begin their UEFA Europa League campaign with a play-off round first-leg trip to SK Rapid Wien on Thursday, when City visit FC Timişoara. In a busy week for the Mancunians, Italy forward Mario Balotelli arrived after his transfer from FC Internazionale Milano – following earlier additions Aleksandar Kolarov, Yaya Touré, David Silva and Jerome Boateng – while Wales striker Craig Bellamy was loaned to Cardiff City FC on Tuesday.
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