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By ESPN Staff

Reds offer player exchange for Barry

Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill has confirmed he has received an offer from Liverpool for skipper Gareth Barry.

O'Neill insisted the Reds have made a player exchange offer for 27-year-old Barry, who has two years left of his currrent contract.

The Villa chief, upset that the story has been made public, is understood to be interested in bringing Liverpool striker Peter Crouch back to Villa Park.

Goalkeeper Scott Carson, currently on loan at Villa, and defender John Arne Riise could also come into the equation if a cash-plus-players deal materialises.

But O'Neill would still want to keep hold of Barry if at all possible and insists Villa are 'not a feeder club'.

O'Neill said: 'Gareth Barry still has two years of his contract left to run and from my two years' experience of working with him, he's not one who would be wanting to break contracts lightly.

'Liverpool haven't made a straight cash offer. They have made an offer involving a mish-mash of nameless player exchanges.

'I'm particularly disappointed to hear that business is being conducted in public and I just want to be clear on this in that we're trying to build a side here and we're not a feeder club.

'We want to be trying to challenge. At some stage we want to get to the position that this football club once held. That will demand an awful lot of effort. It will take a supreme effort and it will take very, very good players.'

O'Neill added: 'I don't want to be in a position of letting really good players go. Gareth Barry is a really good player who still has two years left on his contract.

'I haven't discussed these things with him yet. At some stage obviously I will do. But the day before probably our most important game of the season is not the time to be discussing it.

'A couple of weeks ago Gareth said he would prefer to wait until the end of the season before we start discussing things and I think that would be the right thing to do.

'It's particularly disappointing to find out that Liverpool have carried the story in their local paper. It's certainly not the way that the Liverpool of old conducted business. I prefer to do things with a bit or privacy and a bit of confidentiality.

'That's particularly disappointing, especially at this time.

'We've got two important games coming up. Liverpool's season might effectively be over as they have qualified for the Champions League and their interest in this season's Champions League ended a couple of nights ago.

'I'd rather be waiting until the end of the season before I discussed things.'

Meanwhile, O'Neill has told his players to turn up the heat on Everton in the race for UEFA Cup qualification when they face Wigan on Saturday.

Victory for O'Neill's side would see them jump into fourth place in the Premier League thanks to their superior goal difference and leave the Toffees needing to win at Arsenal on Sunday to regain their three-point advantage.

'We now have the opportunity to put some pressure on Everton,' said O'Neill.

'If we win, Everton will be out of the top five for the first time this season. Everything is there for us to win but it will not be easy.

'The achievement of still being involved in the battle for a European place with two games to go is a tremendous achievement and it is great to be in our present position.'

Villa's European challenge looked to be over at the end of March when they were mauled 4-0 by Manchester United ay Old Trafford - their third successive defeat following earlier setbacks against Portsmouth and Sunderland.

But, far from being the end of their season, it acted as a spur for a dramatic run that has seen them collect 10 points from four games - scoring 13 goals in the process.

O'Neill will not finalise his side until the last possible moment as he wants to give long-serving defender Olof Mellberg as much time as possible to recover from illness.

The Wigan game will be Mellberg's Villa Park farewell as the Sweden international is moving to Juventus at the end of the season following seven years with Villa.

O'Neill is optimistic the 31-year-old will be fit and he said: 'Olof is feeling better and obviously he wants to play in his final home game for Villa.

'Certainly, if he is willing to start against Wigan, I will happily include him in the side.'