Aston Villa’s victory in the Intertoto Cup could yet bring the club an even greater reward than simply a route into European football this season.
Manager Martin O’Neill hinting that he will sit down with Gareth Barry this week to once more try to persuade the England midfielder to give his talents to Villa for at least another year.
With another improved bid from Liverpool not yet forthcoming and the Villa heirarchy insisting they will not accept a penny less than the £18 million valuation they have slapped on their former captain, O’Neill is perhaps more confident than he has been all summer that his star might yet be tempted to give Villa another go.
O’Neill - who saw his side cruise into the second qualifying round of the Uefa Cup thanks to an Ashley Young strike - believes Villa can show they value their 27-year-old midfielder more than Liverpool, who have turned their attention towards Tottenham Hotspur striker Robbie Keane.
The Northern Irishman also saw Barry greeted with an ovation by 32,000 fans - some of whom may have been behind the boos at Walsall in a friendly last week - as even the supporters now sense that he might be about to bury his desire to leave.
Steven Gerrard, ironically the player pushing for his friend Barry to join him at Anfield, was linked to a big move to Chelsea three seasons ago but when that faltered he reclaimed his place in the hearts of Reds fans.
O’Neill said: “Obviously, we value Gareth more than Liverpool do. It was a fantastic reaction by the fans, today was really great and I think there is no doubt we would all love him to stay at the club. We don’t want him to go and this is the reality here.
“The price we are asking for Gareth Barry is a true and realistic valuation of his quality. He is a top European player. In fact £18 million is cheap for a player of his quality.
“Please don’t read into that that I want him to go - far from it and Liverpool not answering us for a week on certain things sends out a real message.
“My own view is that Gareth should hang around here for another year, see if we can make the progress that we want to make and if we don’t do it, then everyone would wish him well.
“We want Gareth Barry at this football club and it would be a terible loss if he were to go. I will talk to Gareth first of all. Like I’ve said before, we will do everything we can.”