Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill seemed to be ending the season on a downbeat note Monday when he asserted that his club simply could not compete financially with the so-called "Big Four" sides in English football.

Before supporters became too downcast though, the Irishman affirmed that such a state of affairs added to the challenge, as he and his team would have to find different ways in which to compete with the economic muscle of the established Champions League sides.

"We have been up there all season, never out of the top six," he explained to PA Sport. "But we are in the same league as Manchester United, who have gates of 75,000 and are a different entity. We are in there against Arsenal, who house 60,000 fans every home game.

"Then we are against the other two [Liverpool and Chelsea], who have our sort of gates but not only have the experience behind them but a lot of money to go at it as well. We won't be able to compete financially. We are trying to run this as a business at this minute. That is difficult, especially in this day and age.

"It is a tough old business. Financially it is tough out there -- and we are not going to be running this club in the manner of some other clubs. But I think that is part of the excitement of it all. You have to try and find other ways to compete. I don't think we'll ever be up there in finance terms but it doesn't mean you cannot compete in other ways.

O'Neill also insisted that he would never pay stupidly inflated transfer fees for a player, and would only pay over the odds if he felt something genuinely special was being offered that would bring long-term benefit to his side.

He added, "I don't mind paying over the odds for some player but, if some player was worth [$10 million] and I was told you'd have to pay [$22 million], I couldn't do so. However, if I thought someone was worth it in the long term, like an Ashley Young, then I'd pay a bit over the top."

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