John Carew claims he can understand why his Aston Villa team-mate Olof Mellberg chose to make the leap into Italian football and join Juventus, writes Lisa Smith.
But he is adamant that club captain Gareth Barry will be less eager to leave, believing the England midfielder still considers there is work to do to make Martin O'Neill's side a real force to be reckoned with next season.
Carew (pictured), who played in Italy during a year-long loan spell at Roma while he was on the books of Spanish side Valencia in 2003, said: "I think Olof will do well in Italy. It is a big opportunity to go
there and Juventus are one of the biggest clubs in the world.
"It is a shame he is leaving and that he had to go abroad to get European football. We have tried our best to get there and it is not over yet, but we could have made sure of a place in the Uefa Cup by now but for a couple of needless defeats.
"Olof has had the chance to go to a very big European club and play Champions League football. He has been at Villa for a long time and it is understandable that he would want to try something different at this stage in his career."
Regarding skipper Gareth Barry, who has been approached by Liverpool and is understood to also have Chelsea and Juve interested, Carew said: "I think Gareth will be here next season; in fact, I haven't given him going much thought. I think he will stay, although I have not spoken to him about it. I hope he will stay and prove me right."
The 28-year-old Norwegian giant believes fifth place and European football next season is still possible, although Villa face a very tough challenge. He said: "Losing to Wigan Athletic [2-0] at the weekend was a big disappointment. It is difficult now to qualify for Europe through the Uefa Cup route but there is still a chance. It all depends on our last game at West Ham and that will be difficult."
Villa's top goal-scorer this season, with 13 goals, Carew was at odds to explain his team's lacklustre performance on Saturday, when a win against Steve Bruce's Latics would have put them in the driving seat for fifth place. He said: "I can't explain it. We couldn't seem to make it work from the beginning and we struggled to get a hold of the ball.
"We tried very hard to make it work but it wouldn't happen for us. It was similar to our performance against Sunderland at home [a 1-0 defeat on March 22] when we lost unexpectedly. We lost some important points then and we have done so again. "
Carew continued: "The manager was not happy with our performance obviously and the fact that we did not really create the biggest chances. It would have been nice to finish off with a victory at home for our fans who have been so good all season, but it was not to be."