It seems like a lifetime since Peter Crouch was an Aston Villa player and Milan Baros was still making his way at Liverpool — but it is only two summers ago that David O'Leary made one of his more spectacular mistakes as Villa manager.

Whether he then made another one, 13 months later, by paying more than three times the fee Villa received for Crouch to sign Baros is another matter.

All that can be said about Baros now is that, since returning from his World Cup injury, he has yet to spark. In fact, in the Carling Cup win at Leicester City on Tuesday night, the Czech striker spluttered like a damp squib.

With Crouch expected to line up opposite Baros when Villa go to Anfield on Saturday, this coming weekend is as good a time to pass judgment as any. Villa skipper Gareth Barry needs no convincing that O'Leary erred in selling Crouch.

"It was very unfortunate for us that we let him go," said Barry. "When you look at it now, it was definitely a mistake. What he has gone on to achieve is something special."

Coincidentally, in the week of Villa's trip to Leicester, it was the club's previous visit to the Walkers Stadium, under O'Leary in January 2004, that signalled the end of the road for Crouch.

He came in as replacement for the injured Juan Pablo Angel to score twice in a 5-1 win but when Villa's top scorer was fit again a week later, Crouch was dropped.

"Scoring twice against Leicester and getting dropped for the next game summed up his time at Villa," said Barry. "But I always felt that when he got his chance, he did pretty well.

"His scoring record wasn't prolific, but his size and his ability caused teams problems. He dropped down a level at Southampton, but he's gone on to prove a lot of people wrong.

"He bounced back to be a top England striker and that says a lot about his character."

Tuesday night's trip to the Walkers Stadium — where he won the last of his eight England caps against Serbia & Montenegro in the summer of 2003 — was also a reminder to Barry that, internationally speaking, the two former Villa team-mates' career paths have taken divergent routes.

It was May 2005, the summer after he had left Villa, when Crouch won his first England cap as a Southampton player.

While he has now gone on to hit 11 goals in 14 games and establish himself in the England squad, Barry has spent two seasons treading water before responding to the offer of the Villa captaincy this season with a string of fine displays under Martin O'Neill, who raved about his performance at Leicester.

"If there was a better player on the pitch than Gareth Barry, then I didn't see him," said O'Neill. "He was just magnificent.

"But then he has been liike that all season but, on a stage where both teams looked tired, he looked fantastic."

Watched by England head coach Steve McClaren in Saturday's 1-1 home draw with Fulham, Barry afterwards admitted he wished he hadn't known he was under observation. All he can do is maintain his form and await his next chance of a call but, for now, all that concerns him is Villa's chances at Liverpool this Saturday.

Barry has scored in both of Villa's last two visits to Anfield but he warns that, just because Villa have already prised away points from Arsenal and Chelsea this season, there is no guarantee they will do the same against a Liverpool team misfiring under Rafael Benitez's rotation system.

"We've gone away to big teams this season and taken big points," he said. "But Liverpool have had a bit of an indifferent start so that might make it a bit more tough.

"They've got loads of class players, so he can afford to rotate. Whether that's right is his decision. For a team like us, a settled team helps."

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