Liverpool have had three offers rejected, the last of £13m, and are prepared to make a fourth official approach this week, despite O'Neill's reluctance to discuss a deal for the 27-year-old after the Anfield club made their interest public before the end of last season. But Liverpool insist they will not pay £18m, and their next offer is likely to be left with Villa as Rafael Benítez considers alternative targets.
O'Neill is close to strengthening Villa's midfield by signing Steve Sidwell from Chelsea for £4.5m, with confirmation of a deal expected in the next week, but still wants to hold on to Barry, his captain. Barry informed O'Neill of his wish to join Liverpool by telephone after England's international against Trinidad & Tobago this month. He is loth to sour relations with his employers of 11 years and with a manager he respects by formally requesting a transfer, but he will have no alternative if the stand-off continues and his prospects of competing in the Champions League with Liverpool recede.
Liverpool believe they are being held to ransom by Villa, and hold a similar view of Newcastle's insistence on at least £7m for James Milner. The 22-year-old is one of several wingers under consideration by Benítez, who was rebuffed in an attempt to exchange the reserve players Danny Guthrie, Jack Hobbs and Emiliano Insúa for Milner last month. Guthrie, who spent last season on loan at Bolton, may yet be a makeweight in a deal for the former Leeds United midfielder, whom Liverpool value at closer to £5m.