Reports today are suggesting that moneybags, Manchester City, have made a "big money" offer for Aston Villa's versatile midfielder, James Milner. £20m+ is the figure being quoted. It's been a fairly meteoric rise for a player that until very recently many still considered as average at best.
The season just gone has been Milner's finest to date but that's against some average competition. He showed promise at Leeds but became one dimensional, he flattered to deceive at Newcastle where he habitually wasted possession, he was then shunted out to Villa on loan and after a year back at Newcastle in their relegation season he signed for Villa permanently for £12m. This is where Milner finally began to find his feet.
He was perhaps unfortunate at Newcastle that the man who signed him, the late Sir Bobby Robson, was unceremoniously sacked and replaced by Graeme Souness who wasn't keen on Milner's attributes. It was David O'Leary who took him to Villa on loan with reasonable success but it is under Martin O'Neill that he has flourished. Only 23 he has already played under 13 different managers (including caretakers) and cites the stability at Villa as a big reason for his improvement.
What shined through Milner's Newcastle years and protracted move to Villa was a calm level headed attitude learned from senior players around him during his evolving career. This attitude has seen Milner become the mature player he is today.
Able to understand and carry out instruction, he allies this with an understanding of football that enables him to play in several positions. These are precisely the qualities that England coach Fabio Capello likes in a player and precisely the reason why Milner is a cert for the final 23 that will travel to South Africa.
His current form and performances over the past year cannot be argued with and he has eclipsed the likes of club mate Ashley Young. He fully deserves his place in the squad but is he good enough for the first team? That remains to be seen and he is perhaps more of a safety valve to cover a few positions and be available to protect a lead should the need arise.
He doesn't have the creativity of Joe Cole or Steven Gerrard. He doesn't have the midfield goal threat of Frank Lampard. He doesn't have the blistering pace of Aaron Lennon or Theo Walcott. He doesn't even cross as well as Adam Johnson.
He does most things very well but jack of all trades is often master of none and I don't see a starting position for Milner. He is probably the direct replacement for Owen Hargreaves; a confident assured penalty taker (another reason to have him in reserve given England's major tournament shootout record) who can cover the full length of both flanks and play right through midfield.
Fair play to the lad, he's proved me wrong and the next couple of steps in his career could see him become a World Cup winner and key component of the most ambitious club side in the world. Now that's progress.