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O'Neill hints at Barry exit

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1 O'Neill hints at Barry exit on Sat Mar 21, 2009 8:29 am

Martin O'Neill admits Gareth Barry could leave Aston Villa if the club fail to secure a top-four finish in the Premier League.

The England international appeared all set to move to Liverpool last summer, but the Reds refused to meet his £18million price tag.

Uncertainty continues to linger over his future, though, with Anfield still touted as a possible destination.

He only has just over 12 months left to run on his current deal at Villa Park and is keeping his options open until the 2008/09 campaign reaches its conclusion.

Should Villa snatch a UEFA Champions League spot he could stay but, should they fail in that quest, O'Neill accepts Barry may decide to take on a new challenge elsewhere.

"Will Liverpool come back in for Barry? I don't know," said O'Neill, who is set to go head-to-head with Rafa Benitez's title-chasing side on Sunday.

"This topic goes into a lull for a month and then comes back around again and I don't know how many times I've said the same thing.

"I don't know what Liverpool are thinking and it is not my concern at the moment.

Terms

"In the summertime - and I will repeat what I've said before - if we qualify for the Champions League, then subject to the terms (of a new contract) being right, I think there would be a decent chance that Gareth Barry would stay.

"There is nothing set in stone but that is what he has said himself and the agents have also indicated 'fine'.

"My stance has not changed. I said to him last year, with two years left of his contract to run, if he gave us another year, he could see where we are, see what we are doing.

"I don't think anyone would begrudge him leaving the club (if they fail to qualify for the Champions League) having given almost 11 years' service."

O'Neill added: "Gareth also would have one year left of his contract instead of two and so circumstances would change. That is the viewpoint and, if we didn't make it, we would look at a number of things.

"But, in Gareth's case, the chance to go and play at a club involved in the Champions League is not something I would probably begrudge him.

"I think he has enjoyed this season. I think the crowd have taken to him, I think he might have been concerned about that after the events of last summer.

"The crowd's overall picture is of the service he has given here and there is a genuine appreciation of what he has done at the club."

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