Gareth Barry doesn’t need to leave Aston Villa for Liverpool to further his Champions League and England aspirations, former Reds winger John Barnes believes.
Barnes’ career took off after he joined Liverpool for £900,000 from Watford in June 1987, despite the fact he had played nearly 300 games for the Hornets and had scored one of the greatest ever England goals against Brazil in 1984 in the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
Like Barry, Barnes had already been an England international but he was used mainly as a fringe player and it was only after he moved to Anfield that he became an England regular. He went on to score 84 goals in 316 appearances for the Reds and was capped 79 times by England.
Barry is said to be keen on a similar move to Liverpool to fulfil his ambitions of playing in the Champions League and becoming an England regular.
Villa have officially rejected three bids for Barry from Liverpool, the last reported to be worth £13 million, and are said to be holding out for between £18 and £20 million for their captain.
Barry has not publicly asked to leave Villa Park but he may be forced to voice his intentions if Villa reject a fourth bid which may be lodged by Liverpool later this week. Reds boss Rafael Benetiz is reluctant to pay £18 million as he is having to raise his own finances for the deal by selling Xabi Alonso and John Arne Riise, but he may be forced to turn to other targets if Villa continue to be stubborn over selling their prized asset.
Barnes said the circumstances are very different for the Villa captain than the situation he faced over 20 years ago because Villa are capable of becoming a top-four side themselves.
“I wasn’t in a similar position,” said the 44-year-old father of six, who was speaking while visiting St Augustine’s Catholic Primary School in Handsworth to oversee a kit exchange between the school and a school in Ethiopia as part of a Wash and Go initiative to highlight the problems children face in the African nation.
“Watford had just gone from the Fourth to the First Division and the Watford fans understood I had to be sold. Aston Villa is a much bigger club than Watford and have Champions League aspirations, so it is a much more difficult decision for Gareth than it was for me.
“On the plus side, money talks these days. Watford may have said they didn’t need the £900,000 Liverpool paid for me and they wanted me to stay, I would have been happy to stay. In the current climate, everyone has their price in modern football. Villa may be an ambitious club and they would like to keep Gareth Barry but if Liverpool offer £50 million, are they going to take it? Probably.
“It is just a question of if Villa accept the bid. If they do it will be a win-win situation for everyone. If they don’t accept the bid then Barry, being the top professional he is, will stay at Villa and do his best for Villa.
“He has already got England recognition from playing for Villa and he doesn’t need to leave Villa to play for England regularly.
“By the same token, Villa are looking to break into the top four. They nearly did it last year and will feel they can push on and finish in the top four this time, and qualify for the Champions League.
“Whether Villa sell Barry is a question only Villa and Gareth Barry can answer.”