Liverpool are understood to have launched their bid to sign Aston Villa captain Gareth Barry by tabling an initial £10million offer.

The Reds are believed to have formally contacted Villa yesterday with their bid for the England midfielder.  There has been speculation for the past fortnight that 27-year-old Barry has emerged as one of Rafael Benitez's major summer transfer tasrgets.

It remains to be seen whether Villa manager Martin O'Neill will accept the bid for Barry who has two years to run of his current contract. But Benitez wants Barry to form a partnership with his England colleague and close friend Steven Gerrard.

Barry, who celebrates the 10th anniversary of making his Villa debut next week, has made no secret of his desire to play Champions League football. He is on more than £40,000 a week at Villa and could come close to doubling that if he moved to Anfield or Chelsea who have also been linked with the player.

But it the desire to win trophies that is uppermost in Barry's mind at this stage of his career.  The former Brighton trainee has already expressed a desire to hold talks with Villa manager Martin O'Neill to assess what his transfer plans are for the 2008-2009 campaign.

Villa fans have been desperately trying to persuade Barry to stay with the club and lead the renaissance under O'Neill and club chairman Randy Lerner. They have been roaring his name at recent matches as they close in on Everton and fifth place in the Premiership.

Villa are challenging strongly for the UEFA Cup spot but Barry wants to see whether Villa are in a position to move to the next level. O'Neill pulled off a masterstroke in persuading Barry to sign a new four-year deal when he took charge of Villa in the summer of 2006.

But he may find it harder to persuade Barry to sign a new contract and to convince him to stay.