I have to admit, I didn’t see this one coming. I’ve always quite liked Gareth Barry, he’s been a great servant to Aston Villa for many years, and even when he was doing his best to engineer a move to Liverpool last Summer, I could respect him, because he was just trying to further his career by playing Champions League football. And let’s face it, he’s 28, and so he needs to get a move on if he’s to win some trophies. So why on earth has he joined Manchester City?!
Well, of course we all know why he has joined them, and that is because they’ve offered him a big fat wad of cash. The arguments will be made that he’s joined them because they want to achieve something big, and I’m sure they do, but I highly doubt that it will happen overnight. No matter how much money they spend this Summer, I don’t think City will break into the top four, and I don’t think Barry will play in the Champions League for Manchester City.
Even more bemusing too, is the fact that he has gone from a club where he is loved, where he is the first name on the team sheet, where he is the centre of all of their play, to a club that already has a wealth of midfield players. Stephen Ireland has grabbed the headlines this season, but the likes of Nigel De Jong, Vincent Kompany, Michael Johnson and Gelson Fernandes all will hope to fit into the midfield, as well as Petrov and Wright-Phillips who will fill a wider role on the pitch.
For a player who obviously has England ambitions then, you really have to question the sense behind this move. Don’t get me wrong, I rate Barry highly and out of those players I’d have him in my starting line up, but the thing is, it always takes time for a player to settle in at a new club. He’s moved early, so he should be settled in his new home but still, when the start of the season comes he’ll find it difficult learning to play in a new side and he may find it difficult to replicate the sort of form that he has been in straight away, and with such competition abound, he may find that if that happens, he will be on the bench, because if City’s ambition really is a top four place, they need to fire from the start.
If that should happen, then you really have to doubt his place in the England line up come the following Summer’s World Cup. Sure, he’ll be in the squad probably, but given that he is competing against Gerrard and Lampard for a midfield place and that Capello has made it clear that those who are playing for their club sides will get the nod, surely Barry would have been wiser to stay with Aston Villa for another year, playing in a team that in many ways is built around him and makes him look good.
That is especially the case when you consider that after all his jostling for Champions League football last season, Barry has jumped ship from Villa who will be competing in the Europa League to play for City, who will be playing no European football whatsoever, having finished a measly 10th in the Premier League this season. He has left a side who, along with Everton, look most likely to break into the top four to join a club that has obvious potential in their bank balance but that really struggled to make that count on the pitch last season.
It just goes to show how much of an impact money can have on a player. Previously I considered Barry to be a good pro, who played football for the love of the game and with genuine ambition, and while a little more loyalty to Villa would have been good last summer, I could understand his desire to better himself. And I don’t think I was alone in that opinion, on the whole, Barry was seen as a good guy.
But suddenly, all that has gone out of the window. Any respect that we may have had for him has gone because he has left a top club side to join an average one simply because they will pay him more money. All his talk of ambition and a desire to prove himself at the top level has just been washed away. I don’t doubt that he actually held those beliefs and that he did indeed want to play at the top level, but to give up on that stance so lightly in the face of a bigger, fatter contract shows him to simply be yet another greedy mercenary.
I will never understand players like Barry who jump ship in this sort of circumstance. If he had moved last summer, to a better side, then fine, it would be justified. But to move for money when he was already on a fairly hefty salary at Villa is stupid. Let’s face it, no Premier League footballer is going to struggle to make ends meet. They’re all pulling down a very generous salary, and they don’t need more money. Therefore their decisions, like Barry’s, to chase the money just appear despicable.
When I was growing up I always dreamed of playing football in the Premier League, for Everton. And I have always said that I’d play for them for nothing, and I mean it. If I could play for Everton they wouldn’t have to pay me a cent, but they may just have to put up with me camping in the Finch Farm canteen. Why is it then, that these players who were like me when I grew up lose sight of it all so quickly?
If Barry can justify his move then all my judgements of him will be retracted. But at the end of the day, the only level on which he can honestly justify this transfer is on a financial one, and that is just unacceptable to me. He would have been far better off staying with Villa for a season, playing well, pushing for the top four and earning himself a starring role at the World Cup. Instead, he’s jumped ship to earn himself a few extra bob and in my book, that is just unacceptable, and a sad reflection on the way the game is developing these days.