Liverpool are set to open talks with England winger Stewart Downing after settling on a fee with Aston Villa.

Downing has been a prime summer target of Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish, and bids of £12million and £15million were refused prior to Wednesday's breakthrough. The England winger effectively forced Villa's hand by submitting a formal transfer request and the midlands club have now accepted an undisclosed bid thought to be in the region of £20million.

Liverpool said in a statement on their website: "Liverpool have now been granted permission to discuss personal terms with the player and arrange a medical."

Villa manager Alex McLeish had insisted he wanted Downing to stay in the midlands, as Liverpool hovered with intent. But the size of the latest offer proved irresistible, given Downing has only two years remaining on his contract.

Downing made it clear only last month, when on England duty, that he would not sign an extension with Villa, effectively forcing them to listen to offers.

As statement from Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner later added: "I can confirm that we have reached an agreement with Liverpool following an improved offer received earlier today and the submission of a formal transfer request by Stewart Downing. We have subsequently given them permission to speak with the player."

Should the deal be concluded, the 27-cap international would become the third high-profile midfield recruit by Dalglish this summer, following the signings of Jordan Henderson from Sunderland and Charlie Adam from Blackpool.

Downing's departure from Villa after just two years would be a setback for the midlands club, who sold Ashley Young to Manchester United last month. McLeish will now press ahead with plans to bring in new blood.

The Scot has already been linked with Wigan's Charles N'Zogbia, whom he came close to signing when in charge of Birmingham, while goalkeeper Shay Given's £3.5m move from Manchester City is expected to go through soon.

Faulkner added: "We believe there are replacements available in the market who can strengthen our squad ahead of the coming season, and we are in discussions as such. We are also working hard to conclude a deal for a goalkeeper who we believe can also strengthen the side."

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