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Manchester City Signs James Milner; Ireland Switches to Villa

Aug. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Manchester City signed Aston Villa’s England midfielder James Milner today, bringing an end to months of wrangling about his future.

Milner, 24, signed a five-year contract after passing a medical examination, City said in a statement on its website. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. U.K. newspaper reports said the agreement, which includes midfielder Stephen Ireland moving to Villa Park, is worth 26 million pounds ($41 million).

“James is a very good player who has proven he can play at the very top level,” City manager Roberto Mancini said in the club’s statement. “I think he can also improve and be a great player for Manchester City for a long time.”

Milner’s arrival takes City’s transfer-window spending to around 125 million pounds, more than any other soccer team. Other arrivals include Yaya Toure, Mario Balotelli and Jerome Boateng. The spending is bankrolled by Abu Dhabi-based Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who bought the team in 2008.

Aston Villa rejected City’s 20 million-pound offer for Milner on May 19. That didn’t deter City from pursuing him for the next two months, angering the club’s then-manager Martin O’Neill and owner Randy Lerner.

O’Neill quit Villa on Aug. 9, five days before the start of the Premier League season. Media reports said his departure was linked to a dispute with Lerner over whether he could use the funds from Milner’s sale to strengthen his squad.

In an Aug. 15 interview with the Mail on Sunday, Lerner, who also owns the National Football League’s Cleveland Browns, attacked City over its pursuit of Milner.

Joined From Newcastle

“Big, bad City came along and asked for Milner and we said, ‘No he is not for sale’. And under the rules you have to respect that. And Manchester City respected that for two whole days and then they violated the rules and came in for him again.”

Milner joined Villa from Newcastle for 12 million pounds in August 2008. Ireland, 24, spent eight years at City and was named the club’s player of the year for the 2008-09 season.

“I hope things go well for Stevie at Villa,” Mancini said. “He is also a very good player and has played a big part in City’s history.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tariq Panja in the London newsroom at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at at

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