Gareth Barry remains hopeful enough of a move from Aston Villa to Liverpool to hold off on demanding a transfer for now, though the extraordinary events of Tuesday and Wednesday appear to leave the possibility of an agreement between the two clubs further away than ever.
Barry joined his team-mates at Villa's Bodymoor Heath training ground yesterday in a state of astonishment over a Villa statement, issued at 5.05pm on Wednesday evening, which declared that Liverpool had failed to meet a deadline for his signature, set for 5pm that day. Barry faces a tense wait to see if a dialogue can be reopened and though forcing matters is a possibility he will bide his time a little longer.
Liverpool were equally bewildered by Villa's announcement, which came as they were preparing to inform Villa that a deal they insist they had struck with the Midlands club for Barry's services was one they could deliver on. Working to the 5pm deadline, sources at Liverpool suggest that they were told, late on Tuesday afternoon, that they must pay up in fewer instalments and were subsequently left with 24 hours to arrange the financial approval that entailed.
In part, that involved persuading Tom Hicks and George Gillett that larger instalments should be paid to secure the 27-year-old England international's services. The Americans had apparently consented when Villa declared the issue closed.
For their part, Villa are adamant that no deal for Barry had been reached and that the only communications between the clubs on Tuesday and Wednesday were a fax from Villa Park to Anfield on Tuesday morning laying out the deadline, which Liverpool had acknowledged, and a telephone conversation between the Liverpool chief executive, Rick Parry, and his opposite number, Randy Lerner, on Wednesday morning. Villa say that Liverpool had never disputed the time-frame and after the Wednesday morning conversation that there had been no further contact from the club – and no request for an extension – before the 5pm deadline elapsed. Villa deny that £17.5m plus right-back Steve Finnan had been offered for Barry.
Though Liverpool retain some degree of confidence that they might yet pull off the summer's most protracted transfer, it is difficult to see how a deal may now be done. Villa's statement has backed Martin O'Neill into a corner, with any agreement between the clubs now guaranteed to result in loss of face for him.
The noises emanating from Anfield yesterday were surprisingly diplomatic. Despite the agonies felt at Anfield that a deal finally coming to fruition was wrecked by Villa's decision to issue its statement, Liverpool do not want to antagonise Villa further by casting aspersions.
Barry knows that a new £60,000-a-week deal at Villa Park is on the table, with the promise of a lucrative testimonial after 10 years of service. But the events of the past week have only compounded doubts about his future. When it was put to him during a meeting with O'Neill and Lerner on Monday that a 48-hour deadline would be set, Barry felt there was no option but to agree to it. He is of the view that a fee for his services had been agreed on Tuesday morning and that a new payment structure was stipulated by Villa on Tuesday afternoon.
There was a sense from both sides that yesterday would not elicit a breakthrough. Villa, in particular, seemed keen to let the matter rest and provided no sense that they were ready to reopen discussions. But O'Neill, for all his determination to get the matter resolved, will know that an unsettled Barry is of dubious value to him. The midfielder harbours a deep conviction that after 10 years at Villa he has served the club and should not be put through the ignominy of asking for a transfer.Reuse content