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Page last updated at 14:48 GMT, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 15:48 UK

Barry offered new Villa contract

Gareth Barry
Barry has been at Villa since 1997

Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner says he is "optimistic" midfielder Gareth Barry will stay at the club after offering the England international a new deal.

Barry, 28, almost joined Liverpool last summer but the deal collapsed after the Reds failed to meet his £18m price tag.

"We have discussed a new deal with Gareth," Lerner told BBC Sport. "He's a gentleman, a great player and captain."

Lerner has also told Villa boss Martin O'Neill that he has money to spend in the transfer market this summer.

O'Neill spent around £50m on new players last summer and although Lerner refused to put a figure on how much was available this time, the American admitted substantial funds would once more be available.

"Will £50m be available again this summer? I don't know," he said.

"Sitting here now if I was to come out and say 'yes' I would put the club at some disadvantage in terms of pricing.

I am confident of keeping Martin long term even if a big job came up

Lerner on O'Neill

"Will there be funds for players this summer? Yes. Like any club we are conscious of having money available for the summer.

"We are also conscious of managing the players leaving and trying to generate funds from that. It is a balancing act but, yes, there will be funds.

"Will the credit crunch impact on funds available this summer? I don't really view the credit crunch as a big issue in terms of the funding for the summer."

Last summer there was huge speculation that Barry, who had stated his desire to join Liverpool, was set to sign for Rafa Benitez's side.

606: DEBATE

But after Liverpool failed to match Villa's asking fee, which resulted in Benitez criticising Reds co-owner Tom Hicks, Barry changed his mind, to the delight of Lerner.

"I don't think anyone could do better than Gareth on any level," said the Villa owner, who gave a rare interview to BBC Radio 5 Live's Brian Alexander and other journalists.

"Am I optimistic Gareth will stay? Yes, I am optimistic. It is my nature.

"He is currently speaking to Martin and that is the natural process. They will get into it and it will all get handled in the normal ways."

Lerner added that he was willing to run down the midfielder's current deal, which has 12 months left, if Barry does not sign a new contract.

You are talking about a player who is an integral part of your potential success

Lerner on Barry

That would mean Barry could leave at the end of next season without Villa receiving a transfer fee.

"Am I happy for him to wind down his current contract? That's his decision. If it means he is staying another year, I am absolutely happy," said Lerner.

"Even though Villa would lose £10 to £12m? Yes, absolutely. You are talking about a player who is an integral part of your potential success.

"That is in terms of playing more games, to winning competitions etc. That is similarly lucrative to a transfer fee this summer when you think about what you can achieve with a player like that.

"It is not like you forego the proceeds and you are getting nothing back."

The American, who took control of Villa in 2006, said he was also sure that manager O'Neill would remain at the Birmingham club for the foreseeable future, even though he continues to operate on a 12-month rolling contract.

"I am confident of keeping Martin long term even if a big job came up," he said.

"I think Martin has bought into the club. I think he has emotionally invested. He has bought into me and my ambitions to some extent."



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see also
O'Neill will consider Barry sale
22 May 09 |  Aston Villa
Barry to remain at Villa - agent
27 Aug 08 |  Aston Villa
Barry transfer saga riles Benitez
16 Aug 08 |  Liverpool
O'Neill takes aim at player power
16 Aug 08 |  Aston Villa


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