James Milner returns to training with Aston Villa later today and is set to have crunch talks with Martin O’Neill over his long-term future.
The midfielder, given a month off after England’s disappointing World Cup campaign, has been the subject of a rejected £20m bid from Manchester City.
O’Neill claimed last week that Milner had “intimated” he would like to make the switch to Eastlands after just two seasons with Villa.
But the 24-year-old player disputed those claims from the Villa manager and also insisted he had not been offered a new contract.
O’Neill declined to make any comment after Saturday’s win over Bohemians in Dublin.
But he will be aware of the spotlight that will focus on his discussions with Milner, especially as City are expected to increase their bid in the next few days for the former Newcastle midfielder.
Villa take on Walsall in a friendly at Walsall tomorrow evening, although that may come too soon for Milner to be involved after his four-week break from action.
But it brings back memories of two summers ago when want-away midfielder Gareth Barry – then a target for Liverpool – was jeered by Villa fans in another clash with their neighbours.
He eventually completed a £12m move, to Manchester City, although it did not take place for another 12 months.
Emile Heskey, who has announced his retirement from international football, England colleague Stephen Warnock and United States goalkeeper Brad Guzan will also report back for training today after their exertions in South Africa.