Stewart Downing is on the verge of joining Liverpool after being told by Aston Villa that he is free to leave the club, according to a report in the Daily Mail.

20310 - Downing closes in on Liverpool move

Downing is understood to be on his way to Anfield if the Reds are able to meet the £19 million asking price for the winger. It is believed that new boss Alex McLeish is reluctant to lose the England international, but with recent contract talks at Villa Park stalling, the club may be prepared to take accept a transfer fee and move instead for Charles N'Zogbia from Wigan.

McLeish earlier told the Birmingham Mail that while he was resigned to losing Ashley Young to Manchester United, he was still interested in keeping Downing.

"He is a top player," said McLeish. "He has got a couple of years left on his contract and it is very important that we hold on to Stewart. I want Stewart to stay. I saw his statement. I'll have a go at talking to Stewart and see what happens.

"The guys are on holiday at the moment. When they are back in England I will try and get a meeting with them. I don't know but it seems that Ashley is going to leave. I don't know if the Young one is a fait accompli but I'll certainly be looking to try and keep Stewart."

Liverpool have also been scouting cheaper alternatives to Downing, including Dimitri Payet from St Etienne, but the Englishman is still the club's preferred target.

Meanwhile, the movement at Villa is set to continue, with Rangers confirming they have made an offer to Carlos Cuellar, while McLeish is expected to announce the signing of Germinal Beerschot's Victor Wanyama, despite the midfielder being heavily linked to Swansea and Celtic.