Martin O'Neill, the Aston Villa manager, is determined to get the right price for captain Gareth Barry after dismissing Liverpool's third bid for the England midfielder yesterday as "just not acceptable".
Villa rejected a new offer for Barry from the Merseyside club, this time believed to be around £15m. They witheringly described the latest Liverpool bid as "a slight improvement on a previous bid".
Barry has told O'Neill he wants to join Liverpool in order to play Champions League football and enhance his international prospects but the manager insists his club will not be bullied into selling.
O'Neill said: "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 that his better players will be targeted by bigger clubs but hopes to hold on to his squad as Villa seek to break into the top four of the Premier League next season.
"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."
Villa appear to be testing out whether the Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez is prepared to go to £18m for the player. It is believed that previous offers for the midfielder included a cash-plus-player deal and this could still be the key to landing Barry.
The 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.Reuse content