It had been rumoured for days, but time was running out – maybe he was staying after all? And then, at an hour so late that even the pea-brained idiots behind the reporter had decided to call it a day, Sky Sports News announced that Gareth Barry had arrived at Everton’s training ground. It seemed he was going after all, and some time after Big Ben bonged eleven times, the news came through that Barry had moved on a season-long loan to the Toffees.
A loan deal it may be, but this is the end of Gareth Barry’s ManchesterCity career, with a mere year left on his contract.
So I hope I can safely say from everyone at Manchester City football club – thank you.
Thank you for being the rock in our title-winning side. Thank you for never appearing on the front or back pages of a newspaper, thank you for being a consummate professional who simply did his job. Thank you for never moaning, even when not picked. Thank you for choosing us over Liverpool – it was the right decision in the end.
Barry joined City in 2009 from Aston Villa and made 175 appearances for City, scoring eight goals, and picking up two major trophies along the way. He was the engine room during City’s most successful period in a generation. He controlled the area in front of the defence, kept the team ticking over, linked defence to attack, and as David Silva commented “let me do my job”. No wonder he was Silva’s player of the year in the title-winning season. He was the ultimate team-player, not chipping in with goals, not top of the assists chart, not making eye-catching last-gasp tackles. He didn’t need to. He anticipated and read the game as well as any of the more illustrious players that surrounded him. He wasn’t fast, and that didn’t matter either.
It’s an oft-mentioned point, but Barry was the acid test of what a fan knew about football. If you thought Barry was a rubbish footballer, then you knew little. Many footballers are immortalised because of one solitary moment, and Barry’s misfortune was to be remembered for being outpaced by Mesut Ozil as England capitulated to a 4-1 defeat to Germany in the 2010 World Cup. Never mind that he wasn’t fully fit, never mind the poor performances of many of his team mates. For many, this is how he will be remembered. Like many around him, Barry never excelled at international level, but like many around him he was never properly utilised. But if you saw him week-in, week-out, you soon realised what he brought to the table.
Barry could still have done a job this season, and many fans are desperately disappointed at him leaving. But this is the new holistic Manchester City and this is the consequence. Barry would not have been a first-team regular, and it seems the City hierarchy were not prepared to have a player sitting on the bench drawing £6m wages a year. Barry earns more than Jovetic, more than Navas, more than Negredo. In a world where breaking even is now a necessity, in the eyes of those that run our club, he had to go. What’s more, it’s rather optimistic to expect the performance levels of the Gareth Barry of two years ago. His performances tailed off last season, and now another year closer to retirement, he is in the twilight of his career.
Unfortunately Barry will now be the new Nigel De Jong, a handy reference point every time City perform poorly. But what’s done is done, and he has moved on to pastures new, the desire for regular football understandable. After all, this is not just about what is good for City, but what is good for the player. Like any footballer not called Winston Bogarde, Gareth Barry needs to be playing. It’s a World Cup year, and his chances of adding to his 53 England caps may be slimmer than Kolo Toure locked in a diet-pill factory, but if he sits on City’s bench he will never know.
So like Mario Balotelli, Kolo Toure and Carlos Tevez before him, he goes with our best wishes and our deep gratitude for his contribution to a wonderful few years. When this period of City’s rich history is looked back on then Gareth Barry might not feature on the cover of the brochure, his picture might not dominate the museum wall – but he has earned his place in history, and he was a gentleman throughout. All the best Gareth and thank you.