Louie Barry and the controversial moves that made him Villa’s hero vs Liverpool

Louie Barry scored his first Aston Villa goal on his senior competitive debut for the club in their FA Cup third round tie against Liverpool on Friday night.

The England Under-17 international showed calmness and composure to race away from Rhys Williams, before coolly slotting past Caoimhin Kelleher to equalise for a young Villans outfit as they gave Jurgen Klopp's men a scare before succumbing to a 4-1 defeat.

Barry and the entire Villa lineup, weren’t meant to be taking on Klopp’s side of course.

But after a major coronavirus outbreak at the club’s Bodymoor Heath training ground ensured no first-team players or staff would be present at Villa Park – and also took out some of the more experienced Under-23s – it offered a chance to the club’s youth talents.

With the match being shown live on BT Sport, it was their first real opportunity on a national level to showcase their talents- and Barry didn’t waste his chance. "Brilliant composure" proclaimed club captain Jack Grealish, watching from home.

Not that the exciting teenager hasn’t already made headlines.

Even before this, his professional debut, he had already made waves and been at the centre of controversy early in his fledgling career.

Villa-supporting Barry joined West Brom’s academy at the age of six. After 10 years with the Baggies, he elected not to sign pro terms, despite being offered a three-year deal, instead choosing to head to Europe.

He has been sought after since scoring 10 goals in five games for England U15s in Italy and with his pick of a host of the continent’s top clubs, Barry moved to Barcelona.

Albion, who in recent years have lost a number of talented youngsters to bigger clubs – such as Izzy Brown and Morgan Rogers – were unhappy.

They had developed his game, but would now lose out on a player whom they believed could land them a multi-million transfer fee in the coming years for virtually nothing. They were entitled to just £235k in compensation for a player rated as one of the best in his age group in England.

Ironically, when Barry elected to return to England less than a year later, joining Villa for an initial £800k – in a deal that could reach £3million – Barcelona still hadn’t paid Albion who had sought legal advice and contacted FIFA over Barca's antics.

Their anger was compounded by Barca turning a quick profit by selling Barry to Villa – the player had grown frustrated at La Masia after Victor Valdes was replaced by Franc Artiga, and having already had to deal with delays in initially processing his registration – with West Brom subsequently taking legal advice.

But that wasn’t where Albion’s anger stopped.

In 2019, West Brom’s former academy chief Mark Harrison handed in his notice at The Hawthorns ahead of a move to a similar role at Villa – shortly after Barry snubbed all Albion’s overtures over a new contract.

Upon his arrival at Villa, Harrison spoke openly about Barry, stating: “We have to make sure locally Aston Villa are the club everyone wants to come to.

“A player left West Bromwich Albion to go to Barcelona. He’s from Sutton Coldfield. He's a Villa fan, his dad’s a Villa fan. That just can’t happen in the future.”

Harrison duly played a pivotal part in Barry’s switch to Villa and believes he can mature to be a first-team star in the years to come.

According to Villa CEO Christian Purslow, the club “found an opportunity to bring him back.”

Barry, upon joining Villa, said of the situation: “I understand they’re quite fired up about it. But I loved West Brom as a club.

“I was there from the age of six to 15. I will always have love for them and will never say a bad word against them.

“I really enjoyed it at Barcelona. But I am coming back home and came to Aston Villa to work with Mark Harrison."

Barry has been regularly training with the first-team since joining the Villans and is seen by coaching staff as perhaps the most natural finisher at the club from the Under-18s upwards.

"This Louie Barry, he looks like a young Jamie Vardy!" said Jurgen Klopp.

"When I celebrated, just everything came out of me," said Barry. "I've never been so proud of a team. We just gave our all. We were a credit to ourselves and to the club."

Thankfully, unlike some of his contemporaries, he had not been working with the seniors in the past week.

If he had, his Friday night would have been very different.

Yet it wasn’t the first time he has made headlines since joining Aston Villa. It likely won’t be the last.

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