A statement by the Liverpool manager, Graeme Souness, suggested that it had been Liverpool who turned down the deal. But last night Ron Atkinson, the Villa manager, insisted it was his club that pulled out.
'We did make an enquiry about Barnes last week,' Atkinson said last night in Bruges, where he was working for television at Rangers' European Champions' League game, 'and the names of Parker and Barrett were mentioned, but I didn't want to lose them.' Earlier reports suggested that Atkinson was prepared to offer pounds 1m, as well as the players, making the whole deal worth around pounds 4m.
Yesterday Souness described the 30-year-old Barnes, whom he recently made captain, as 'one of the few great talents in the country. . . He's had trouble with injuries and is still not playing at his very best but I want him to stay and recapture the form I know he's capable of,' Souness said.
Barnes's contract expires in the summer and unless Liverpool offer him the same pounds 500,000 salary he is entitled to a free transfer.
Malcolm Allison was replaced as chief coach at struggling Bristol Rovers last night because of ill health. The move by the chairman, Denis Dunford, is initially for two matches, but it is questionable whether the 65-year-old will ever return to the First Division club. Allison has been confined to bed suffering from a chest complaint since the weekend's 3-0 defeat by Watford.
That result left Rovers in a perilous position and Dunford has put the player-coach, Steve Cross, in charge for the next two games at Notts County this weekend and Derby the following Saturday.
Allison, whose playing career with West Ham ended in the 1950s when he lost a lung after contracting tuberculosis, joined Rovers in November in an advisory capacity. A week later he was put in temporary charge when the manager, Dennis Rofe, left the club. Rovers have won six, drawn four and lost eight matches under Allison's command.
Manchester United stopped Bryan Robson from playing his planned second comeback game in the reserves last night.
Robson was due to play against Notts County reserves, but the United manager, Alex Ferguson, said: 'Bryan was a bit tired after his first comeback game in the A team last Saturday. We have decided it is too close to that game to push him into another one.'
Robson will play against Manchester City's A team at City's training ground on Saturday.
Steve Palmer, the Ipswich midfielder, has been ruled out for the rest of the season. The 24-year-old former Cambridge University student, a member of Ipswich's Second Division championship side last year, has been told he needs an operation on the thigh injury which has restricted him to just five appearances this season.
The first concrete bid to buy Birmingham City was lodged with the club's receiver yesterday. An unknown London-based investment trust made an undisclosed offer for the struggling First Division club.