Lerner has revealed there has been discussion over a new contract with the England international.
Barry has just another 12 months left on his current contract and has been linked with a summer move away from the club.
Lerner said: “We have discussed a new contract with Gareth. I would give Barry the highest ranking possible. He is the best. He is a gentleman, a great player, a pleasure to be around, a leader, a great captain.
“I don’t think anyone could do better than Gareth on any level. Am I optimistic Gareth will stay? Yes, I am optimistic. It is my nature.
“He is currently really speaking to Martin O’Neill and that is the natural process. They will get into it and it will all get handled in the normal ways.”
Lerner added: “Am I happy for him to wind down his current contract? That’s his decision. If it means he is staying another year, I am absolutely happy.
“Even though Villa would lose £10-£12 million? Yes, absolutely. You are talking about a player who is an integral part of your potential success.
“That is in terms of playing more games to winning competitions etc. That is similarly lucrative (to a transfer fee this summer) when you think about what you can achieve with a player like that.
“It is not like you forego the proceeds and you are getting nothing back.
“You are keeping him on the team, the team continues to compete and you are rewarded with successful results. There is more to do it than foregoing money.”