Alex McLeish was unveiled as the new Aston Villa manager yesterday and the Scot confirmed that his first priority is to keep Stuart Downing at Villa Park.
McLeish all but confirmed the departure of Ashley Young yesterday – although where he’s going is anyone’s guess with Villa yet to receive a bid for his services – but stated that Liverpool target Stuart Downing won’t be going anywhere.
“No chance do we want Stuart Downing to go,” said McLeish. “We certainly don’t want to lose Stuart – he’s a top player.
“I need to see what Stuart’s thinking when he comes back because I know that he made some comments when he was away on England duty.”
Villa value Downing at around £20m and while McLeish wants to keep hold of his winger, any bid in the region of £15-20m would surely be accepted by the Villa board – although they may hold out for more considering Liverpool’s current transfer policy.
Dalglish is very keen on bringing the England winger to Anfield as he looks to find the right service for Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez next season, and a refusal to give up on his pursuit of Downing could see both he and McLeish exchange some heated words.
McLeish needs to do everything he can to impress the Villa faithful following his arrival from Birmingham and keeping Downing, Villa’s best player last season, would be a step in the right direction.
However the lure of Anfield and a place in the Liverpool team could see Downing put pressure on his manager to let him leave.
Should McLeish lose Downing and Young he would face another Villa backlash, and while the odds suggest McLeish will last the season at Villa, an ineffective summer coupled with a poor start to the league could see McLeish out before October.
McLeish has to win this battle with Liverpool but Dalglish will not be willing to back down without a fight.