Barry 'flattered' by Benitez interest

Sam Wallace,Trinidad
Sunday 23 October 2011 07:55

Liverpool's pursuit of Gareth Barry has been notable for the public overtures made to the Aston Villa midfielder by Rafael Benitez and Steven Gerrard although the man himself has kept his counsel until now. Yesterday Barry broke his silence and hinted that he would be on his way if the two clubs could agree a fee.

Barry, 27, is a long-standing target of Benitez who has orchestrated a ham-fisted campaign to prise him away from Aston Villa, his club of 10 years. The Liverpool manager will take heart that Barry, who scored England's first goal against Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday, considers Champions League football as a priority and now seems set on a move to Anfield although agreeing a fee is likely to cause problems.

Asked whether he wanted to move to Liverpool – the club's £10m bid was rejected in May – Barry said: "It's obviously very flattering, the team has made a bid for me but until the bid gets accepted I can't even think about it. Champions League football helps any player. 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."

The contest for Barry, who has two years left on his Villa contract, is not likely to be straightforward.

Last month Martin O'Neill was scathing about Benitez's claim that the two men had detailed discussions about Barry's availability. The Liverpool manager appears to have been panicked by another summer in which he has limited funds and Gerrard's very public appeal to Barry to join Liverpool this weekend would seem to be on the instigation of Benitez.

Barry himself seemed quite shocked at the blatant nature of Gerrard's appeal.

"It was a bit of a surprise to see Steven go so public," he said. "I would like things cleared up. It would be easier for myself and for the fans so I'm sure we can get it done pretty soon. I've got nothing planned with Martin O'Neill but I'm sure the manager will want to speak to me and I'll eventually want to speak to the manager. There's so much to lose at Aston Villa. I've got a good rapport with the fans, I'm captain there, I've got a great relationship with the manager."

Benitez has also complicated Peter Crouch's departure by placing a £15m price for him despite the England striker being one of the club's key money-raising assets this summer. The departure of Xabi Alonso to Juventus has also heightened his need to sign another midfielder. The chaotic aspect of Liverpool's summer dealings – and the extent to which Benitez has alienated O'Neill – is one of the key factors in Barry's misgivings over the deal.

Barry was given the captain's armband for the second half on Sunday, prompting Capello to say that he was the fifth player to be given an audition in the role. However, even Barry seemed resigned to the fact that it would now be between Rio Ferdinand and John Terry. "If you were to lead the team out from the beginning, then I could have looked at it a different way," he said. "But it was still a great feeling just to do it for the second half.

"To lead the side out was a great way to finish the season at international level. Getting the armband was a great moment for myself. It will give me a lot of confidence going into next season."

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