Houllier hits back at Sunderland
Sunderland have pointed the finger at Villa for their pursuit of Bent, with Steve Bruce hinting they made overtures towards the player prior to any bid being lodged as he said: "I think that obviously they [representatives for Bent and Aston Villa] had had conversations."
Villa hit back with an unequivocal response, firmly denying any wrongdoing - and Houllier has continued in that vein by insisting that Sunderland retained the final say over whether the player stayed or left.
"I was surprised by some of the declarations and I thought that some people were not telling the truth, maybe they wanted to protect themselves," he said. "They had the right to say no."
Houllier refused to rise to the barbs aimed in his direction by Bruce after the Sunderland boss expressed frustration that he had not received a phone call from his Villa counterpart.
"I like Steve Bruce and I think he's a very good manager," Houllier said. "I think he was maybe not too gracious to me, but that's life. It's not going to prevent me from sleeping."
Houllier has also responded to accusations from Blackpool manager Ian Holloway that his conduct has been questionable in his pursuit of Charlie Adam, who has been the subject of two unsuccessful offers from the Midlands club.
Holloway described an offer of £3.5 million as "derisory" and accused Villa of "trying to steal" the Scottish midfielder, who has been in excellent form in the club's debut season in the Premier League. However, Houllier says Villa's behaviour has been faultless.
"It's the same with Ian Holloway," Houllier said. "We did things right with Blackpool. We went straight to the club, we were quiet, we said nothing and finally it comes out in the press but not from Aston Villa.
"He said we were insulting them. We made a bid, they said no and we respect that. But there is no point in being vocal and saying we were insulting them and insulting the player. They are insulting us but we don't want to go on about it.
"We made no mystery after what was said by [Ian] Holloway in the press. It is true we made a bid and it is true we like the player. It is true we would like to have him here."