The midfielder's arrival appears to be as a replacement for Gareth Barry as Martin O'Neill, the Villa manager, has moved to nip in the bud any speculation that he has made the acquisition to pave the way for Ashley Young to leave the club. He vowed that any offer for the talismanic winger would receive 'short shrift'.
Downing, who has signed on a four-year contract which will earn him in excess of £50,000-a-week, probably nearer Young's £56,000-a-week salary (putting him in the highest wage bracket at the club), was described by O'Neill as 'a multi-purpose player'. It suggests he will be played through the middle in Barry's former position, although he will not be available for selection until October at the very earliest as he is still recovering from a broken foot.
The 24 year-old described Villa as 'a massive football club with good ambition', and explained that it was the chance to play under Martin O'Neill that convinced him to move to the Midlands.
"As soon as I spoke to the manager, I wanted to play for Villa and I wanted to play for him,' Downing explained. 'He has great ambition and wants to build a good squad to take the club forward. I want to be part of that." Middlesbrough will receive an initial £10 million that will rise to £12 million depending on appearances.
Downing's arrival places Villa's bid for Fabian Delph in doubt. The 19-year-old is also a left-sided midfielder, and although Villa remain interested in him, they will not improve their £6m offer. They hope that by signing Downing they have demonstrated that they are not holding out for Delph. Time is against Leeds United.
O'Neill will instead set his sights on bringing defender Sylvain Distin on board. Villa have tested Portsmouth's resolve with a bid believed to be in the region of £2.5 million, but, due to the ongoing uncertainty of Portsmouth's ownership, Distin's club are unwilling to give a definitive response to the approach. Nevertheless, the lines of communication have been opened.