Aston Villa chiefs have hit back at Sunderland's claims that they unsettled Darren Bent before sealing a club record swoop for the England striker.
Bent joined Villa on Tuesday in a deal worth up to 24 million pounds (38.3 million dollars) after handing in a surprise transfer request just days earlier.
Sunderland fear Bent was tapped up to ensure he was aware of Villa's interest and would therefore agitate for a transfer.
Black Cats boss Steve Bruce claimed Bent had been unsettled, while chairman Niall Quinn has revealed he feared three weeks ago that the 26-year-old had his mind elsewhere.
Quinn told Kildare TV: "I had an inkling. Darren is a terrific guy and he has been great for us.
"He's done loads of work with us for the club over and beyond just playing football. He's bubbly and he's always on great form.
"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 that's what had happened. They were setting him up to try and come and he took the bait."
But Villa issued a strongly-worded statement on Wednesday stressing that there had been no "inappropriate approach" to the player.
They 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 Football Club'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 Football Club 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 Football Club.
"Darren only became aware of his possible transfer AFTER Sunderland's game against Newcastle on Sunday and AFTER we had agreed with Sunderland the essence of the deal, which led quickly to Darren's arrival at Villa Park on Tuesday.
"It is only because of some comments emanating from the Stadium of Light that we have felt compelled to respond and set the record straight."