Aston Villa's battle with Liverpool over Gareth Barry's sale has taken a new twist.

The Sunday Mirror says the Midlanders insisted their rivals withdraw from the race to sign David Bentley.

Villa have earmarked the Blackburn midfielder as a replacement for the Anfield-bound Barry. And they want a clear run at securing Bentley's signature without Liverpool's interest inflating the transfer fee.

Liverpool have had two bids for Barry rejected but a deal reported to be in the region of £15million could eventually be brokered if the club make an undertaking not to pursue Bentley, who has made it clear to Rovers that he wants to move on.