Martin O’Neill has challenged Liverpool to end the stalemate over Gareth Barry’s transfer to Anfield by meeting his asking price.
On the day O’Neill banned Barry from the club’s first day of pre-season training, the Villa boss revealed he accepted Barry would be leaving the club a month ago.
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has made four separate bids for the player, but so far has not met O’Neill’s £18million valuation.
The saga took a another bitter turn on Wednesday when O’Neill fined his club skipper two weeks’ wages – around £80,000 – following a Sunday newspaper article in which Barry severely criticised his manager’s handling of the situation, claiming he had not made enough effort to keep him at the club.
Then Barry was told he was not welcome at pre-season training. That situation is unlikely to change until Villa have left for their training camp next week.
O’Neill then turned down a fourth Liverpool bid, reputed to be around £15million as the summer-long saga reached stalemate again.
But now he has challenged Benitez to pay up.
He told Villa’s official website, www.avfc.co.uk: “We are really disappointed that he (Barry) is not going to be with us, he has made his mind up to go to Liverpool.
“You can talk and you can talk and talk but the bottom line was that when he came back from the England game in Trinidad and Tobago, he told me he wanted to leave. When somebody says they want to leave a football club, there is not much else you can do about it.
“We had a meeting a few weeks before that, Randy (Lerner), myself, Gareth and his agent and he said that Champions League football was what he wanted to do.
“So this idea that we have not done anything in our power to keep him, I am afraid I totally and utterly disagree. Why on earth would we not want to keep our very top player at the football club when we’re trying to improve?
“I think we have made steady improvement, we have gone from 16th to 11th to sixth in the league. This season we are going to try to push on from there. So the one thing you want to do is keep your best players.”
The Villa boss added: “But Gareth has made his position clear and after that it is straightforward. We have put a valuation on him and Liverpool value him differently at the moment. That is what the stalemate is, it is nothing else.
“Gareth has pointed out he wants to go and if Liverpool come up and meet our valuation, he will go. That has been the case since the beginning of June when Gareth said he definitely wanted to go to Liverpool.
“We put a valuation on him and we have based this valuation on a number of straightforward issues, not least that he is actually a top-quality player.”
Benitez, in the circumstances, would feel O’Neill will have to give way at some stage and he need not match the £18million asking price. But if that is the Anfield strategy, it is going to be a long drawn-out affair and could go to the last day of the transfer window at the end of August..