Aston Villa midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker believes the club's ability to hang on to Gareth Barry underlines their ambition to break into the Premier League top four.
A summer-long saga saw the Midlanders reject four bids from Liverpool for the England international, with manager Martin O'Neill repeatedly stating that the Reds would have to match their £18million valuation of the player.
As it was, the transfer window closed with Barry still at Villa Park, and Reo-Coker believes that it was crucial for his side to retain the services of the midfielder if they are to build on last season's sixth-place finish.
"A lot of players have been away for the best part of two weeks because of the World Cup qualifiers and Under-21 games - but everyone has been so pleased about Gareth staying," Reo-Coker said.
"He is one of our top players. A fantastic player, a great asset to the club,and a real professional. I always rated Gareth highly, even before I came to the club last summer, and it's great to hang on to him.
"It makes us a stronger squad - and a more serious contender to break into the top four. It is very important that we managed to hang on to him.
"It's up to the individual to interpret the situation what has happened but it shows what we are trying to do, plain and simple. It shows how serious we are.
"So many clubs in the Premier League are considered feeder clubs but you can see how serious and ambitious this club is.
"Keeping Gareth sets a marker and I think other clubs will notice that. We're not here to make up the numbers. We want to push onto into that top four."
Such ambition, Reo-Coker believes, is the reason that the likes of James Milner and Steve Sidwell joined Villa from Newcastle United and Chelsea respectively.
"Martin has got his masterplan. I'm sure he knew what he was going to do from a long time ago and now he's finally getting the team together that he wants," he added.
"I think James Milner would have looked at the squad we've got here, could see we are serious contenders to achieve things and do things, and there is the opportunity to play European football as well."