Liverpool target Gareth Barry is still trying hard to show the utmost respect to his current club Aston Villa, but seems to be trying to prepare them for his departure from the club.
Although 27-year-old Barry hasn’t yet been given permission to speak to the Reds, he obviously knows about their interest. The first public sign of this came when Martin O’Neill responded to a Liverpool Echo article reporting a Liverpool bid. O’Neill had assumed Liverpool FC had fed the story to the Echo and complained bitterly in the press, although he should have looked closer to home for the blame. But his outburst confirmed the bid had been made.
After a personally memorable game for England last night he was asked he was keen on joining Liverpool FC. He was keen to emphasise his deep feelings for Villa, but pointed out it might be the right time to look a little higher up the league: “Just to think about it makes it a tough decision. There’s so much to lose at Aston Villa. I’ve been there more than ten years, got a good rapport with the fans, I’m captain there and have a great relationship with the manager. But Champions League football helps any player.”
He scored for England in the friendly with Trinidad and Tobago, wore the captain’s armband for the second half, and sees that to get more of this he may need to move on: “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. 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.”
Officially he can’t speak to Liverpool as Villa haven’t accepted a bid, but he is believed to be hopeful they will so he can discuss a deal. Steven Gerrard’s public call for him to join him at Anfield was unexpected: “It was a bit of a surprise to see Steven go so public. 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. I would like things cleared up, the sooner the better.”
For all concerned he feels the situation has to clarified sooner rather than later: “It would be easier for myself and for the fans as well, 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. That will come soon enough.”
As for his 45 minutes as England skipper he doesn’t expect it to lead to him getting the role full time: “If you were to lead the team out from the beginning, I could have looked at it a different way, but it was still a great feeling just to do it for the second half. It will give me a lot of confidence going into next season and was a perfect way to finish the season.”
It was ahead of the England game that Gerrard aired his views on Barry as a potential club team-mate: “I know all about Gareth. We’re good friends off the pitch and I’m desperate for us to sign him. Gareth would certainly help Liverpool be a better team next season.”
Asked if Barry would agonise over leaving Villa, Gerrard said: “I’m sure he will. He has been a fantastic servant, but sometimes opportunities come along in football where you can better your career. Gareth is 27 now and needs to play Champions League football. In my opinion he can do that.”
Gerrard also spoke about the age-old debate over where on the pitch he should play, but says he’ll play anywhere. He was speaking in terms of England, where he had played on the left of midfield against the USA: “You know my favourite role. I don’t need to go on record again to say what that is. But I’m mature enough to adapt to different roles. I’m sure this manager will be ruthless if you don’t meet his standards. The important thing is to be in the starting line-up and part of this team, because I believe we will improve and get to the next level.”
At the moment there is a gap between Liverpool’s initial £10m offer and Villa’s £15m valuation.