Aston Villa have begun talks with Gareth Barry as they try to persuade the England midfielder to stay with the Midlands club and turn down an offer from Premier League rivals Liverpool.
Villa manager Martin O’Neill has been angered by the way in which Reds manager Rafael Benitez has gone about putting in a 10-million-pound bid for Barry.
“We’ve spoken to Gareth and our situation remains the same – that everyone at Aston Villa Football Club wishes very strongly that Gareth will stay,” O’Neill told the club’s official website, www.avfc.co.uk, on Wednesday.
“He still has two years of his contract to run and Liverpool have put in an offer that, well, it’s almost debatable whether it is an offer.
“Things are very much up in the air and the main aim for the chairman and myself is to try and keep him at the football club. That’s what we’re trying to do,” O’Neill added.
“You can make people see out their contracts but in essence we would want a pretty amicable solution to all of this and we’re still hopeful that things can be resolved in favour of Aston Villa.”
O’Neill was particularly annoyed by the way in which details of Liverpool’s offer for Barry became public and believes the Anfield club have grossly undervalued the player.
And with the Midlands club having finished sixth in the table, albeit two places behind Liverpool, who will be playing Champions League football next season, O’Neill hopes that progress will peruade Barry to stay at Villa Park.
“I understand a career only spans a certain amount of time and you want to get as much as you can out of that,” said former Nottingham Forest and Northern Ireland midfielder O’Neill.
“But Gareth has played for England because he plays regularly for Aston Villa and his England place is not in jeopardy because he’s playing for Aston Villa at the moment – frankly (Fabio) Capello does not need to see him playing in a Champions League game to be convinced.
“Of course anything can change at the drop of a hat and I’m never overly confident but what I would say to the fans is that we’re doing our utmost and we’ll continue to do so. We want to show Gareth that we mean business.
“The promise here is very, very obvious. We’ve gone from 16th to 11th to sixth. We’ve got the smallest squad in the business and that’s something we’re desperately trying to improve.
“We don’t really want to be starting off by losing our best players. The only way for us to make progress is by doing our utmost to keep him.”
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