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Page last updated at 14:46 GMT, Friday, 9 May 2008 15:46 UK

O'Neill furious at Benitez claims

O'Neill says he wants to keep Gareth Barry at Villa Park

Furious Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill has hit back at Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez as the row over Gareth Barry threatens to turn ugly.

On Thursday, Benitez said he was surprised O'Neill was angry that news of Liverpool's 10m bid for Villa captain Barry, 27, had leaked out.

Benitez also said they had discussed the "idea" of a transfer "20 days ago".

Villa boss O'Neill said: "Rafa said he was going to respect my wishes. I am not sure he respects anything."

O'Neill insisted that suggestions they were having an on-going conversation about a Barry deal were "absolutely crazy".

He said: "He said he knew my idea and I knew his idea. What idea did I have other than getting off the phone after telling him the player wasn't available?"

Rafa gives the impression that there's been constant dialogue. That's simply and utterly untrue

Villa boss Martin O'Neill

O'Neill added: "It was not a prolonged conversation. 'No' doesn't take too long to say.

"It is any club's prerogative to put in any offer they see fit to put in, but it is also the receiving club's prerogative to say no. I would not then expect this to appear the following day in a newspaper for me to react to.

"The offer arrived on the Thursday and there was barely time for me to contact my chairman, barely time to get any sort of answer back, even if we wanted to give an answer, when it appeared in the local newspaper in Liverpool.

"My view is that Rafa called me on the Friday to cover his backside."

O'Neill was so furious about the situation that he cut short his weekly press briefing and walked out.

The Villa boss has always maintained that he does not want to sell Barry, who has become a regular England international since O'Neill took over at the club.

And he accused Benitez of making a derisory offer for his midfielder - especially in light of the 15m price tag the Liverpool boss has put on Peter Crouch.

"It is interesting to note that Benitez can put a price on a player (Crouch) who has got one year left of his contract because he plays for England," said O'Neill.

"I think he must have forgotten that Barry is playing more regularly for England than that player and yet he can come up and talk about a 10m offer which includes some money and some unnamed players which would make Gareth worth about 2m.

"It does make a laughing stock of what he was saying beforehand. Maybe he is trying to make a fool of us all. It is incredible. I couldn't have been more angry this morning."

On Thursday, Benitez said he and O'Neill would wait until the end of the season before discussing the transfer further.

"He [O'Neill] was telling everyone about our offer, but we are willing to wait and we will try to talk again about the possibilities," said the Spaniard.

"I had a private conversation with him 20 days ago. He knew everything about my idea and I knew about his idea. He said he wanted to talk with his owner.

"We needed to do an official movement and he knew that because I was talking with him."

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O'Neill was angry that Benitez's remarks appeared to expose behind-the-scenes discussions to offload Barry.

"I'm absolutely astonished at this story: 'Rafa Exposes O'Neill'," he said.

"I've never denied speaking to Rafa Benitez so how can you be exposed for something you haven't denied?

"I think Rafa is being very clever here. He gives the impression that there's been constant dialogue. That's simply and utterly untrue.

"He made a phone call to me - I did not initiate the phone call. He asked about Gareth Barry and I said: 'Well he's got a testimonial and two years left to run and he's our best player.' So what would the reaction be?

"I said that I would speak to our owner - obviously, because he has a big, big say in the proceedings - and I assumed he would have the same answer as myself, that Gareth wasn't for sale.

"So I'm astonished to read this. The next conversation I had with Rafa Benitez was last Friday morning when Liverpool had put in a faxed offer to us which we received on Thursday afternoon."


see also
Barry 'undervalued' by Liverpool
09 May 08 |  Aston Villa
Villa players want Barry to stay
21 Apr 08 |  Aston Villa
O'Neill 'desperate' to keep Barry
18 Apr 08 |  Aston Villa
Barry finds his feet
11 Oct 07 |  Internationals


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