Barry set on move despite hero's welcome

John Percy
Sunday 23 October 2011 06:15
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Gareth Barry will continue to press for a move to Liverpool that will enable him to play Champions League football next season, despite a hero's welcome when he came on as substitute against Odense in the Intertoto Cup at Villa Park on Saturday and talk of a new contract to keep him at the club. The Aston Villa captain's personal view has not changed despite a much more conciliatory position from the club's fans and the Villa manager, Martin O'Neill.

Both Barry and Liverpool are hopeful that talks between the two clubs will move forward this week and Barry himself is still grimly resolved that he has to be playing for a Champions League team next season. O'Neill said on Saturday that Villa had not heard from Liverpool "for a week", adding "maybe that tells its own story", but personal circumstances around the player and his advisers meant that no talks were planned for last week.

Barry could have been forgiven for having a moment of doubt about leaving when he was given a standing ovation in the second-leg victory over Odense, but the basic principle of his stance has not altered. He wants to play Champions League football next season at Liverpool or, failing that, at Arsenal. The £18m valuation placed upon him has given both clubs cause for doubt but it has not changed the way the player himself feels.

Speaking after the game, O'Neill hinted at the prospect of a new contract for Barry, whose existing deal at the club lasts until the summer of 2010. "We will do everything we can," O'Neill said again yesterday when it came to the prospect of persuading Barry to stay. But Barry, who agreed the new deal one year ago, will not sign a fresh contract and will forgo the promise of a testimonial because he is so set upon a move away from the club.

Having been booed and subjected to "Judas" chants when playing against Walsall in a friendly on Tuesday, Barry was given a tumultuous reception by the home supporters at Villa Park. Coming on for Wilfred Bouma, who sustained a gruesome dislocated ankle, he played for 75 minutes in the 1-0 win which took Villa through to the Uefa Cup 3-2 on aggregate. Despite the softening of attitude from the club, there has been no discussion of a new contract with Barry or talks over a potential clause that he could walk away next summer if the team fail to improve on last season's sixth place in the Premier League.

"The clear message regarding Gareth is that everyone at Villa Park wants him to stay," O'Neill said. "I will talk to Gareth first of all. Our position has not changed. If the situation remains the same with Gareth and his agent [Alex Black], there's not much more that we could do. The player belongs to us. Liverpool know the situation. It's not my job to pick up the phone to them.

"It's very obvious we value him more than Liverpool do. He's a top European player. The price we are asking is true and realistic. I think it's really, really cheap, actually, but that doesn't mean I want him to go. But if he felt he wanted to leave, he saw the reaction on Saturday, it was incredibly positive."

Although Liverpool have turned their attention to the signing of Robbie Keane for £18m-20m, Barry and his advisers are confident that they have not been left marooned by the club. From O'Neill's point of view, Bouma's injury represents another player who must be replaced. The Netherlands international will now miss over four months after dislocating his right ankle and, with the new season less than three weeks away, Villa are without a recognised senior full-back.

They have still not replaced their right-back Olof Mellberg after his move to Juventus at the end of last season. Villa have looked at the Reading left-back Nicky Shorey and Manchester United's right-back Danny Simpson. The versatile Wigan defender Paul Scharner and Valencia's right-back Miguel are also being considered.

Like Eduardo da Silva's injury last season, Bouma's foot was twisted at an unnatural angle which O'Neill described as "squeamish". "It's a dislocation, which is still a bad injury, which you could see by the reaction of the players," he said. "The hospital have put it in plaster and got it reset but, obviously, there can be loads of complications. It's terrible news because he played every single game last season. He was fantastic, but he'll come through it."

Bouma's dislocated ankle will need lengthy rehabilitation

ASTON VILLA'S Wilfred Bouma can expect the company of a cast for the next six weeks, after dislocating his ankle in the match against Odense BK on Saturday. It is, surprisingly, not a common injury in football and the most high-profile incident of recent times was when Alan Smith, then of Manchester United, suffered the same injury and a broken leg two seasons ago in an FA Cup tie at Anfield.

A dislocation is an injury that results in a bone being moved out of place. When this happens, the ligaments that hold the bone in place are stretched or torn. The bone can go back into the right place on its own or it may need to be put back in place by a health care provider. Often an injury that causes a fracture also causes a dislocation.

The Villa defender is set to be out of action for around 18 to 20 weeks. Should he need any inspiration in his rehabilitation, he need look no further than Cal Crutchlow, the young motorcyclist.

Crutchlow secured first and third place in the third round of the British Superbike Championships earlier this year, despite riding with the same injury.

John Percy

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