Barry back in training with Villa
Aston Villa outcast Gareth Barry returns to training tomorrow for the first time since his fall-out with boss Martin O'Neill over the Liverpool transfer saga.
The Midlanders went to the extent of announcing skipper Barry's return in an official statement, saying that the midfielder would be returning to training at the club's Bodymoor Heath HQ.
O'Neill had initially fined Barry a reported two-weeks' wages of £60,000 and banned him from all club premises almost two weeks ago after the player had launched an attack on his manager's handling of the on-going row over his proposed move to Liverpool.
The new twist in the saga throws up interesting situations, with O'Neill confirming this week that Arsenal had asked to be kept informed of developments.
The key is that nobody wants an unfit player on their hands. Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez last week suggested privately that they would not be prepared to pay an £18million transfer fee for a player who had missed a significant part of crucial pre-season training.
Liverpool and Villa are at stalemate over the proposed move, with the Anfield club still to meet O'Neill's demands.
The fitness issue would also concern another prospective buyer, as well as Villa who would also not want a player in their squad patently unfit.
It is believed that Barry has not been doing any significant training on his own.
As the bitter negotiations have continued over the past couple of weeks, it has even been suggested that Liverpool's resolve to continue haggling has decreased.
With the prospective sale of Xabi Alonso for £16m to Juventus now having fallen through - and with the player stating he did not want to leave the club -Liverpool have now turned their attentions to trying to sign Spurs striker Robbie Keane.
And there are certainly sources at Anfield who do not believe Barry is worth £18m or that he is a better player than Alonso.
Benitez said last week: "Xabi wants to stay because he is happy here. I have talked to him, he knows my ideas and he knows why. So we will try to find a solution for him, for us, and the best for the club."
That solution may well end with Alonso staying and Barry not moving to Liverpool.
Despite the Villa man making it plain to O'Neill that he wants to move to Anfield, the Midlanders' boss would surely love to see Barry move to Arsenal - if he is going to leave - rather than Liverpool, considering the months of rancour between the clubs.
Barry now has a choice to make. Does he continue to insist that the move to Liverpool is still his main objective or does he try for a way out of the difficult position he now finds himself in?
Although Villa are playing in the Intertoto Cup on Saturday against Odense, it would seem highly unlikely that O'Neill would want to use the player in the match considering his lack of fitness.
Even if he did make such a decision, it would not cup-tie Barry for either Arsenal or Liverpool. Recent rule changes mean that players cannot be cup-tied from one European tournament to another.
Barry's return to training could even be a prelude to the deal with Liverpool finally going through, with his lack of fitness not allowed to become an issue.