Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill is determined to get the right price for captain Gareth Barry after dismissing Liverpool’s third bid for the England midfielder as “just not acceptable”.
Earlier today Villa rejected a new offer for Barry from the Reds – this time believed to be around the £15million mark.
Barry has told O’Neill he wants to join Liverpool in order to play Champions League football and boost his international prospects but the Villa boss insists his club will not be bullied into selling.
He told the BBC: “Gareth and I had a little chat when he got back from holiday and he has said he would fancy going to Liverpool.
“That’s obviously a big setback to us, but the offer from Liverpool is just not acceptable.
“It’s very frustrating. We finished sixth last year, he was a major part of that and he has been a splendid player for us for some considerable time.”
O’Neill accepts it is a fact of life star players will always be targeted by big clubs and has vowed the club will continue their bid to break the stranglehold of the ’big four’ in next season’s Premier League.
“If Manchester United are having a struggle keeping hold of (Cristiano) Ronaldo, I guess the rest of us have a bit of trouble,” he added.
“It’s difficult (to break into the top four) but that’s what you’re in the game for. If it’s without Gareth Barry, we’ll still have a go.”
Barry appeared destined to leave Villa Park when he said earlier this month: “You only have to look at the England squad to see the amount of players who get in the squad and start the games – the majority play in the Champions League.
“That’s all about the decision that will have to be made by myself. Liverpool are in the Champions League and Villa are trying to push for that. That’s all part of my decision if a bid gets accepted.
“Just to think about it makes it a tough decision. There’s so much to lose at Aston Villa. I’ve been there for 10 years, got a good rapport with the fans, I’m captain [and have a] great relationship with the manager.”
Barry must now wait to see if Liverpool return with yet another bid or whether Benitez opts to look elsewhere.
It is believed previous offers for the midfielder included a cash-plus-player deal and this could still be the key to landing Barry.
Liverpool goalkeeper Scott Carson spent the whole of last season on loan at Villa Park and O’Neill is believed to want to make the move permanent.
Benitez is willing to sell, but again the two are at loggerheads over the valuation of the player.