England winger Downing completes Villa move

LONDON: England winger Stewart Downing on Thursday joined Premier League Aston Villa from relegated Middlesbrough for 12 million pounds (19.7 million dollars).

Downing, 24, explained he needed to play in the top flight to improve his chances of being selected for England in the 2010 World Cup.

"Leaving Boro seems strange to me because I have always been at the club. I supported them when I was young and I'll always be a Boro fan," he said.

"I hope the fans will understand that I'm ambitious and want to win things.

"This move gives me the chance of that. Also I definitely want to play at next year's World Cup, so that's my aim - to get back to full fitness and get myself in the England team for the World Cup."

"I have to be in a good Premier League side if I want to do that," he added.

Middlesbrough-born Downing made 181 league appearances for the club scoring 17 goals.

He was part of the squad which won the 2004 League Cup final and reached the 2006 UEFA Cup final.

He has also been capped 23 times for England.

Boro manager Gareth Southgate said: "I felt for the last year or so Gareth has been looking to move to another club and I think it was impossible to stand in his way this time."

"He has played very well for his home town club and we wish him well for the future."