Liverpool have agreed a fee of £20million with Aston Villa for England winger Stewart Downing, who will now undergo a medical.

Downing has been a key summer target of Reds boss Kenny Dalglish, who will now fly home from the club's Asian tour to hold talks with the 26-year-old.

The Reds have been chasing the tricky wideman for some time, with bids of £12.5million and £15million having been knocked back.

Arsenal then entered the race, with it understood that Arsene Wenger tabled a big-money offer for the former Middlesbrough man.

Downing has, however, made it clear that he would prefer to make a move to Anfield.

He may be about to get his wish, with Villa having granted Liverpool permission to speak with the 26-year-old.

A statement released on the Reds' official website late Wednesday night read: "Liverpool FC tonight announced they had agreed a fee with Aston Villa for the transfer of Stewart Downing.

"Liverpool have now been granted permission to discuss personal terms with the player and arrange a medical."

Dalglish has already added Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam to his midfield ranks this summer, but is closing on another creative talent.

Villa, meanwhile, are set to see both of their England international wingers head for the exits in the same summer.

Ashley Young has already completed a £16million move to Manchester United.

The Midlands club later confirmed Downing had submitted a formal transfer request.

Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner said: "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."

Faulkner's main concern now is to try to bring in replacements for Downing - should he leave - and Ashley Young, who signed for Manchester United last month.

He said: "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.

"As soon as we have dependable, conclusive information to share then we will do so."

Villa are optimistic of reaching an agreement with Manchester City for goalkeeper Shay Given in the near future.