Aston Villa sign England youth international Barry from Barcelona
Aston Villa have confirmed the signing of highly rated Barcelona youngster Louie Barry, bringing the England youth international back to the Midlands just six months after he left West Bromwich Albion.
Barry, 16, joins the club for an initial fee of €700,000, although that could rise as high as €3 million depending on a series of add-ons which are mainly based on first team appearances.
As revealed by ESPN earlier this month, the deal was actually completed two weeks ago. Barry has been training with Villa for a while but the club are still waiting for international clearance on the transfer.
Villa beat a number of other English clubs, including Liverpool and Manchester United, to the signing of Barry. Mark Harrison, Villa's director of youth football who previously worked at West Brom, was central to the deal.
"It [Louie's signing] sends a powerful message about the ambition of this football club," Villa academy boss Mark Harrison said. "We're delighted -- Louie is a local person and his family are all Villa fans, as is Louie.
"He is still a very young man but as he's developed, he's always been one player that you always recognise as having outstanding attributes. He's got a fantastic mentality, he's desperate to do well for this football club. He's really driven, he's got great family support, but in terms of what he can achieve, we firmly believe that he can be an outstanding number nine for this football club."
Barry, who comes from a family of Villa supporters, was set on a return to his hometown club once he decided he wanted to leave Barca.
The striker will begin with the under-23s at Villa Park, but one source at the club has described the move as "the biggest deal" the club will make this window, and a Premier League debut before the end of the season is a possibility.
Sources have told ESPN that Villa even arranged a behind-closed-doors friendly for their U23 team on Thursday prior to announcing the signing as they look to get Barry's match fitness up. He came on for the final 30 minutes and scored the equaliser in a 2-1 win against Cardiff U23s, with coach Dean Smith and his assistant John Terry in attendance.
Barca beat competition from Europe's biggest clubs to capture Barry last summer. He turned down far greater money on offer at Paris Saint-Germain in order to push through a move to Camp Nou.
However, his time in Spain has featured more downs than ups. He excelled in preseason for the club's U19 team as part of an attack that also featured Ansu Fati and Ilaix Moriba, but was unable to make his competitive debut until October due to a delay in processing his registration with FIFA.
Barry scored on his full debut and added another goal off the bench in a league game in December, but found minutes hard to come by under coach Franc Artiga, who replaced Victor Valdes on the bench before Barry was eligible to make his debut.
Artiga has leaned on the older players in the squad. Barry, who is not 17 until the end of June, was the youngest player in the U19s by some way.
Sources close to the player have bemoaned broken promises on Barca's behalf, having said the club have backtracked on a pledge to give Barry regular game time in a central attacking position.
Those same sources told ESPN they never asked for Barry to play for the U19s and would have been happy for him to play for the U17s, where he would still have been one of the youngest players. Barry even asked Artiga if that would be possible in order to build up game time.
Sources at Barcelona said they feel Barry, who became the first Englishman to ever live at La Masia, should have shown more patience. They suggested it was always going to take time for him to adapt to his new surroundings, learn the language and get familiar with the side's way of playing.
In the background, Barca have also been in a dispute with Barry's former club West Brom. They have still not paid the development rights the English side believe they are due. Barca have said FIFA should decide if they have to pay the rights or not.
The situation remains unresolved and sources close to West Brom said the Baggies' fury at not receiving a penny has doubled following news of the Villa move.
Despite all that, Barry was able to leave Barca on good terms, with the Catalan club having reluctantly opened the door to a departure on the premise that they could recoup what they had invested in him.