Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill has accused Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez of “disingenuous” behaviour in his courting of Villa's England midfielder Gareth Barry.
O'Neill believes Benitez has deliberately exaggerated the extent of discussions between the two clubs, which he says have been limited to two phone calls, the second of which was “to cover his own backside” after the bid for Barry was leaked to the local press in Liverpool.
“I have never denied we had a conversation – but we have not had prolonged discussions,” an indignant O'Neill said Friday. “Benitez is quoted as saying 'he knew my idea and I knew his'. What idea did I have? I didn't have an idea apart from saying 'Gareth Barry is not for sale'.”
O'Neill added: “Is Benitez playing you for a fool? Rafa said something about 'we will wait until the end of the season because he respects our viewpoint'. Rafa doesn't respect anything. That would be my view.
“In the last two years we have tried to conduct our business in a proper fashion and we have succeeded in doing that and I find myself here going down the Liverpool way of conducting business, the modern Liverpool way of conducting business through the press.
“Villa fans are very anxious for us to try and keep Barry and they would be more than disappointed to find out we have been in 'prolonged discussion' with Liverpool. That is not true.”
O'Neill was also scathing in his assessment of Liverpool's cash plus players offer for Barry, which valued the Villa captain at around ten million pounds — five million less than Benitez believes Peter Crouch is worth.
“I am not here to promote a price for Barry,” O'Neill insisted. “It is not on the agenda but it is interesting to note that Benitez can put a price on a player (Crouch) who has got one year left of his contract because he plays for England.
“I think he must have forgotten that Barry is playing more regularly for England than that player and yet he can come up and talk about a ten million offer which includes some money and some unnamed players which would make Gareth worth about two million.
“It does make a laughing stock of what he was saying beforehand. Maybe he is trying to make a fool of us all. It is incredible. I couldn't have been more angry this morning.”
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