O'Neill has been fighting to keep Gareth Barry at the club this summer
Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill has hit out at player power in the modern game.
"The players are in control and it's crazy," said Villa's Northern Irish manager. "A contract's a contract, therefore it should be worth something.
"Players are driven into thinking that the Champions League is the be-all and end-all. It really isn't, I tell you."
O'Neill has been trying to get Villa's Gareth Barry not to move to Liverpool, though he said his comments were not directed at any player in particular.
There wasn't one person at Villa, myself, the chairman especially, the fans, who would have wanted to see Gareth leave and go to Liverpool or anywhere else
Apart from Barry, the close season has been dominated by speculation as to whether Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo would join Real Madrid and whether Tottenham's Dimitar Berbatov would move to Old Trafford.
And O'Neill believes the game is unrecognisable from the late 1970s and early 1980s when he won the European Cup with Nottingham Forest.
"You don't mind if your top player is in control, it's when your mediocre player is in control," he added.
"I'm not talking about any player in particular, I'm just talking about the state of the game in general.
"In my day the players had no power whatsoever and you always felt you were hard done by and that no one was there to support you... in our day we yearned for a halfway house but now it has gone miles in the other direction.
"At Forest we won the European Cup twice and those days were fantastic - but it was the league competition, the 42 matches we played in that... that was everything. That's what you lived for, every single Saturday."
O'Neill's Villa get their Premier League campaign under way against Manchester City on Sunday afternoon, with Barry's future still up in the air with the transfer window due to close at the end of the month.
"There wasn't one person at Villa, myself, the chairman especially, the fans, who would have wanted to see Gareth leave and go to Liverpool or anywhere else," O'Neill added.
"But the minute he made it known he wanted to go to Liverpool ... I really couldn't do very much about it and that's where you talk about the powerlessness you feel."
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