The Gareth Barry saga may be reaching a finale but it may not the conclusion Aston Villa fans hoped for as Liverpool are reportedly preparing a bid of £15 million, plus a further £3 million in clauses.
The Villa captain’s agent, Alex Black, stated this week that Barry had informed Villa he desired Champions League football and Barry is said to have told Villa manager Martin O’Neill he wanted to leave during a telephone call.
That switched a green light for Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez to submit another bid after offers of £10 million and £12 million were rejected. Although Liverpool denied the bid yesterday, and Villa said there had been no change, it is understood the fresh bid is imminent.
The cash-only offer is believed to be closer to O’Neill’s own assessment of his captain’s worth, although some reports suggest Villa rate the player in the £20 million bracket. On Tuesday, Villa issued a statement confirming Barry’s wish was to leave.
Earlier this week, Liverpool announced losses of £33 million for last season and Benitez will not have the funds to bring in the players that will turn them from top-four finishers to genuine title contenders. The move for Barry will be financed by the sale of Xabi Alonso to Juventus.
Alonso has been given permission to move to the Turin giants, who are likely to pay the £16 million price in instalments.
In contrast, under chairman Randy Lerner and manager O’Neill, Villa are the Premiership club making the biggest strides and while O’Neill has been realistic enough to state that they are probably not top-four contenders at present, Villa have the potential to make a serious challenge in the next few years.
Benitez has made it repeatedly known that he is a big admirer of Barry, who has become an England regular. To reinforce his growing reputation, he scored his first goal for his country and wore the captain’s armband during the recent trip to Trinidad and Tobago.
Liverpool captain Steve Gerrard has also repeatedly voiced his opinion by stating he would love to team up with Barry at the heart of the Liverpool midfield.
Gerrard said recently: “Gareth will improve Liverpool. We can’t be disrespectful to Villa. He is still their player and we will see what happens. Naturally, they are going to try and keep hold of him, and rightly so because he is one of their star men.
"He has been a fantastic servant for them over many years. But, from a biased point of view, I want Gareth to become a Liverpool player. I want Liverpool to be as strong as possible and Gareth will certainly make us stronger.”
The completion of Barry’s move to Anfield will bring to a close a protracted period of speculation that has tested the patience of O’Neill and the Villa supporters, who have grown tired of the saga and Barry’s position as a terrace hero has diminished.
O’Neill has fought a valiant battle to keep his star player and initially launched a war of words with Benitez about Liverpool’s courting of Barry, and even accused the Merseysiders of showing a lack of respect.
However, the affair has proven once more that players have all the power and if they want to move, they can engineer a transfer.