Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier has defended the club's actions over the course of signing Darren Bent from Sunderland, insisting that the Black Cats always 'had the right to say no'.
England striker Bent completed a surprise move to the Midlands on Tuesday in a deal that could be worth as much as £24million, but Black Cats chairman Niall Quinn and manager Steve Bruce hinted that they felt the player was tapped up.
Quinn and Bruce both commented on what they saw as a change of attitude in their star striker over the past few weeks, indicating that he had been informed of interest elsewhere.
Houllier however countered their assumptions, stating that the deal was done properly and both parties were involved at every point of the sale, with chief executive Paul Faulkner in discussions with Quinn.
"We did things extremely right and properly," he said.
"Paul was in contact with Niall and I was kept informed step by step during the negotiations. I would assume that Niall probably did the same thing with Steve Bruce, unless he didn't.
"I was surprised by some of the declarations; I thought that some people weren't telling the truth. Whether they wanted to protect themselves from the fans I don't know. All I can say is we're happy to have the player.
"They had the right to say no, at every minute. But in fact they just wanted a certain bid for the player."
Bruce accused Houllier of a lack of respect after not receiving a phone call from the Frenchman to explain the transfer.
But when asked if he had been in touch, the former Liverpool boss declared that despite bearing no grudges, he would not be picking up the phone.
"No, and I won't. We might have a drink after the games, I'm not bearing a grudge or anything," Houllier responded.
"But this is stupid, if I call him and say 'I want this player', he'll go public and it'll be even worse.
"He's working for the interests of Sunderland and I'm working for the interests of Aston Villa.
"The big transfer was done from chairman to chairman. Our chairman was in touch with their chairman, chief executives and board. But we are kept informed step by step and we also have to work on the pitch as well.
"You contact the manager when you want a player on loan. Fellow managers call me when they want loans or are interested.
"This is the life of football, it makes me laugh. I like Steve Bruce, I think he's a very good manager doing a good job, it was not too gracious towards me but that's life. It's not going to prevent me from sleeping."