Manchester City have launched their expected major spending spree this summer by tabling a £20million bid with Aston Villa for England midfielder James Milner - but it has been instantly rejected by the midlands club.
City launched their initial bid on Wednesday night for Milner who is currently in Austria with his country preparing for the forthcoming World Cup finals in South Africa.
But a Villa spokesman said: "We have received an offer from Manchester City for James Milner and this has been firmly rejected. We plan to sit down with James and his representative after the World Cup to agree a new long-term deal and this remains our position."
The 24-year-old has just enjoyed a successful season in a central midfield role and was recently crowned the PFA Young Player of the Year.
Milner is currently halfway through the four-year contract he signed when joining Villa for a club record £12million from Newcastle in the summer of 2008.
England coach Fabio Capello recently said Milner was "the future" of English football and he has made massive strides under O'Neill and is a near certainty to be part of the final 23 man squad for the World Cup.
Manchester United and Chelsea have also been linked with the player who first burst to prominence as a 16-year-old with Leeds.
Milner's big upturn in fortunes coincided with O'Neill deciding to switch him from a wide right role into the centre of the park midway through last season.
It was an inspired move with Milner helping Villa reach the final of the Carling Cup, the semi-finals of the FA Cup and the top six of the Barclays Premier League.
Villa would be keen to hold on to Milner as they look to push for a Champions League spot next season after a third successive top-six finish.