Aston Villa chief executive Christian Purslow is the driving force of a permanent Ross Barkley deal, Football Insider understands.
But a Villa source has told Football Insider that Purslow “likes the profile” of Barkley as an England international at an elite club and capable of dazzling football.
He is said to believe it would send out a big message to the English game if Villa were to sign Barkley permanently at the end of the season.
The club paid Chelsea a mammoth £11million fee to take Barkley on loan this season.
It would require another massive outlay to turn that deal into a permanent move.
It would take a club-record fee to prise the 27-year-old from parent club Chelsea in the summer.
The asking price is around the £35m mark, more than the £28m plus add-ons paid for Ollie Watkins in the last summer window.
Purslow is more in favour than Smith. Significantly, the CEO has a lot of power and influence at the Midlands giants, where he has the ear of the owners Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris.
Smith is said to be in a “quandary” over Barkley as he does not have a recognised position and the team have a better winning record when he doesn’t play.
The manager has spoken of his admiration of the player this season but only named him in the starting XI for 14 of Villa’s 27 league matches.
He has not started any of the last four league matches despite the absence through injury of Jack Grealish.
Barkley, who has 33 England caps, joined Chelsea in January 2018 from boyhood club Everton.