Reds target Barry set for further Villa talks

May 7, 2008

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill will hold further talks with Liverpool target Gareth Barry after Sunday's final Premier League clash with West Ham.

O'Neill has held an initial discussion with the England midfielder and Villa skipper who has been the subject of a player-plus-cash offer from the Reds.

But the two sides have agreed to put further dialogue aside as Villa attempt to secure a UEFA Cup spot with victory over Hammers and hope Everton slip up against Newcastle.

'I've spoken to Gareth and we will have further discussions when the season is over,' O'Neill said.

'He felt himself that he had been affected by the speculation. He felt it had affected his own game a little bit.

'He wouldn't want that to happen again with such an important game coming up on Sunday so we will speak again next week.'

Villa owner Randy Lerner has reiterated to O'Neill his desire to keep Barry who has two years left of his current contract.

O'Neill added: 'Randy has exactly the same opinion about Gareth as myself. I spoke to him the other day and he wants to make all attempts to keep Gareth at the club.

'He wants to try and improve the team rather than dismantle it. I don't think he is surprised that big teams are after the best players.

'But his view is he wants Villa to become a big team. That is why he took the club over in the first place, to help restore the club to where it was.

'Losing Gareth Barry is not really part of the plan and Randy really wants to keep him.

'There is no surprise in clubs being interested - but us wanting to do business is a different issue.'

Barry has made it clear that he wants assurances from O'Neill about whether Villa can be capable of challenging the top four and he is keen to experience Champion's League football.

But reports suggest the 27-year-old is edging nearer to the Villa Park exit door.