Patrik Berger has played his last game for Aston Villa after manager Martin O’Neill came out fighting in his battle to keep Gareth Barry.
The Czech has incurred the wrath of the Villa boss after he told fellow midfielder Barry to move to Liverpool if he gets the chance in the summer.
Berger said it was “the opportunity of a lifetime. Liverpool don’t come after you every year” and that “if I was in Gareth’s position I would go there tomorrow”.
The comments irked Villa boss O’Neill and he has subsequently spoken to Berger, who was expected to leave in the summer having made only eight Premier League starts in three seasons, and indicated he does not have a future at Villa Park.
“I was really disappointed and surprised that Patrik, with all his experience of dealing with the press, would make such an inappropriate comment,” O’Neill told www.avfc.co.uk.
“The sad aspect of it is that we are paying Patrik’s wages for him to recommend one of our players to another football club. It’s ludicrous.
“I think Pat realises that now and he’s apologised. He said he didn’t mean a great deal of harm but the harm has been done and he won’t be playing any part in proceedings from here on in.”
O’Neill confirmed last week that an offer had been received from Liverpool for Barry but admitted he was keen to keep hold of the player.
O’Neill said: “Gareth Barry still has two years of his contract left to run and from my two years’ experience of working with him, he’s not one who would be wanting to break contracts lightly.
“I don’t want to be in a position of letting really good players go. Gareth Barry is a really good player who still has two years left on his contract.
“I haven’t discussed these things with him yet. At some stage obviously I will do. But the day before probably our most important game of the season is not the time to be discussing it.”
Meanwhile, O’Neill has reassured Villa’s fans that the club’s pursuit of European football is far from over, despite their morale-sapping 2-0 defeat to Wigan.
Victory for Villa would have increased the pressure on fifth-placed Everton in the battle for the UEFA Cup but the Latics completed only their second away win of the season.
Everton’s defeat to Arsenal on Sunday means that both clubs are still in the hunt going into the final game of the season.
The Toffees, who remain three points ahead of Villa, hold the upper hand but if they slip up against Newcastle and O’Neill leads his side to victory at West Ham, Villa would gain an automatic European spot for the first time in nearly a decade.
“We couldn’t have put it in our hands [against Wigan] but we could have put severe pressure on Everton and we failed to do that,” O’Neill added.
“But I wouldn’t be giving up. I think, looking at Everton’s matches, winning Premier League games remains as difficult this week as it was last week and the week before and the last couple of years before that.”