The transfer of Gareth Barry from Aston Villa has taken a bizarre new twist with the news that Arsenal may be planning to Ã¢â‚¬ËœguzumpÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Liverpool and enter a late bid to sign the England midfielder.
Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill has publicly confirmed that Arsenal have been in touch with the club and suggested that they may enter the race to sign capture his signature. Whether Arsenal will be thrilled that this news has been made public by OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Neill is open to conjecture.
Liverpool have made no secret of their desire to land Barry, and have been locked in negotiations with Villa over the player’s sale for several weeks. The saga has become increasingly acrimonious as the clubs have taken it in turns to criticise each other and the player himself has publicly criticised his manager.
OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Neill had said on Saturday that a deal still had not been struck between Villa and Liverpool, although he indicated that he was hopeful of a resolution soon.
Over the weekend, there was media speculation that The Gunners were interested in making an offer for England international Barry, with right-back Justin Hoyte potentially being involved in the deal as part-exchange.
Martin O’Neill has now revealed to the Sun newspaper that Arsene Wenger’s assistant manager Pat Rice spoke with the club on the telephone, intimating that Arsenal could be set to step up their interest in Barry as they look for a replacement for Mathieu Flamini.
“Myself and Steve Walford (the first team coach at Villa) both know Arsene Wenger’s assistant Pat Rice,” O’Neill said.
“He phoned Steve to ask how the Liverpool thing had gone and said that they might show an interest. At the end of the conversation Arsenal said ‘that’s fine’ and that they’ll let us know. That is exactly what happened.”
I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t remember a manager making this type of enquiry about a player so public before. It seems ironic that OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Neill has done this, considering that his main gripe with Liverpool was the fact that they had publicized details of the initial negotiations.
Presumably, OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Neill is in some way either trying to Ã¢â‚¬Ëœget backÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ at Liverpool or frighten them into making a quick bid that meets VillaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s valuation of the player.
Liverpool are still interested in Barry and the sale of Peter Crouch to Portsmouth and possibly Scott Carson to Stoke City may make the necessary finance available. However, the news that the anticipated sale of Xabi Alonso looks like collapsing could make the signing of Barry an unnecessary expenditure for the club who still have serious issues to address in the Boardroom.
I do have considerable sympathy for Barry in all of this. He has been a wonderfully loyal servant to Aston Villa over the years and has been a one club man since his teenage years. He has developed into being an established England international, the only man to play in all games under Fabio Capello, and is looking to take his career to the next level.
In order to achieve what he wants to achieve he thinks, quite reasonably, that he needs to be playing Champions League football. He made that fact pretty clear and Liverpool expressed an interest in signing him. At that stage, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think anyone would have thought badly about anyone involved.
From BarryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s point of view, it doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seem that it is his fault that the negotiations have been so publicly and with such little grace. It is also not his fault that Villa have put such a high price on his sale and Liverpool have been slow to come up with the funds. It is definitely not his fault that Pat Rice allegedly phoned Steve Walford or that Martin OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Neill allegedly made that phone call into public knowledge.
The only thing Barry has done that could be construed as being wrong is talking to the newspapers about the fact that Martin OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Neill had not spoken to him for seven weeks. Of course, if Barry is telling the truth about the lack of contact from his manager then he arguably had a right to answer the fact that the club were publicly saying that they were doing all they could to keep Barry at Villa.
The whole transfer is becoming a very unseemly business and I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t quite understand why it has turned out the way it has. I have the utmost respect for Martin OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Neill who is one of the finest managers around. I have the utmost respect for Rafa Benitez and Liverpool who, apart from the two owners squabbling, invariably conduct themselves with great dignity. I also have the utmost respect for Gareth Barry who has been a great role model as a footballer.
I hope the reputation of everyone involved survives this whole saga as it would be a shame for any of them to become tarnished.
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