Aston Villa have strongly defended their conduct in the move that took Darren Bent from Sunderland to Villa Park.
Bent's switch to Villa was completed yesterday for an initial £18million three days after the striker put in a shock transfer request.
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce claimed Bent had been unsettled and chairman Niall Quinn has revealed he feared three weeks ago that the 26-year-old had his mind elsewhere.
But Villa issued a strongly-worded statement stressing that there had been no “inappropriate approach” to the player.
That was after Quinn said Sunderland had realised they were fighting a losing battle to keep a man who scored 25 goals last season and had managed 11 to date this time.
Quinn had commented: “I had an inkling.”Two or three weeks ago maybe, I went into the training ground and there was something up with him.
“I looked at his demeanour and I thought, 'It's not right'. Having been in the game, you kind of know when someone's got something going on in their heads.
“It transpired that's what had happened. They were setting him up to try and come and he took the bait.
“It's hugely disappointing for us, but all we could do then was battle hard and, when the transfer request came in, that was probably the final nail.
“We could have tried to stop it. It was really difficult. The only job left to do was get as good a deal as possible for the club and to start finding a replacement and a solution to the problem he's given us.”
Villa reacted to Quinn's comments by insisting the player did not know about any possible deal until after the 1-1 derby draw with Newcastle on Sunday.
“We understand Sunderland's need to explain to their naturally-disappointed supporters why Darren Bent has been allowed to leave their club,” read the statement.
“It is disappointing, however, that Sunderland should try to besmirch the reputation of the player and Aston Villa in the process.
“We wish to make clear that at no time did Aston Villa make an inappropriate approach to the player or unfairly compromise the business of Sunderland.
“It is only because of some comments emanating from the Stadium of Light that we have felt compelled to respond.”