Gareth Barry – money or medals?

It feels strange writing this when Gareth Barry was never a Liverpool player; but the chants from the Stretford End of “you scouse b******” when he turned out for Aston Villa at Old Trafford last season indicate that Gareth Barry was all but a Liverpool player in waiting. Until his head was turned by the glistening coins of Man City.

I’m neither upset, elated, bitter, disappointed nor pleased that Gareth Barry will not be a Liverpool player next season. He is a player I rate and feel would have improved the squad, but if he is the sort of player motivated by his bank balance rather than a desire for success then we may have dodged a bullet in losing out on his signature.

It was widely acknowledged that Xabi Alonso was going to be the man to make way last summer, with a £20m sale to Juventus funding a £10m move for Barry, giving Benitez a like for like replacement and a £10m profit on the transfer. As things transpired, Juventus bid £16m for Alonso before pulling out of the deal, and Aston Villa drove Barry’s price up nearer to the £20m bracket; making the economics of the deal distorted from the original plan. It never happened.

This summer the same noises have been emanating from Anfield, with Real Madrid hot on the tails of our midfield maestro, and being more than forthcoming with their intentions to add Xabi Alonso to Perez’s wonder squad. Figures of up to £30m have been muted for the capture of Alonso, and it seemed to make sense financially to cash in on the Spanish wonder if we could capture Barry for under £10m; which seemed more than likely with him having less than 12 months to run on his current contract.

Xabi AlonsoI don’t think anyone associated with Liverpool Football Club wants to lose Alonso, and the fact he’s been touted as one of the few on the Perez hit list with names such as Ronaldo, Ribery and Villa highlights the regard in which he’s held. But if we could sell him, replace him with Barry and add another £20m to the transfer kitty then I’m sure it would have softened a few blows and allowed us to strengthen elsewhere. Selling Alonso to fund Barry and Villa would have appeased most.

But things don’t always go to plan.

I believe Liverpool offered £8m for Barry, which seems a fair price considering his contractual situation. Remember Michael Owen was sold to Real Madrid for the same price when he also had a year remaining on his contract, and was one of the most sought after strikers in the world at the time. If that is how Benitez valued him, then it would be foolish to spend more just to get his man, and it’s something we just cannot do when working to a budget.

Man City come in with £12m and offer him £100,000 a week. Liverpool were never going to match that. And rightly so. If Barry really wanted to come to Anfield, he could easily have refused a move to City and forced Villa into accepting the bid from Liverpool.

And to Gareth Barry himself.

He stated last year that he wanted to leave Aston Villa to play Champions League football and test himself at the highest level. He gave it one last push with Villa this season, but at 28 years of age, it seems the right time to move on before it becomes too late. I think everyone in the country was convinced he’d be at Anfield next season. Unless Arsenal came in at the last minute.

What nobody seemed to expect was for Barry to have his head turned by the splash of the cash from Eastlands.

Every player is well within their rights to look after themselves and do the best they can for their families; but I’m sure Gareth Barry isn’t short of a bob or two, and the approximate £60,000 a week he’d have picked up moving to any other club would more than suffice in making sure he and his family never wanted for anything.

But doesn’t his decision make him look a little foolish when his sole reason for leaving the club he’d served for the best part of a decade was to play Champions League football? It’s a huge slap in the face to Villa fans and just further enforces the view that footballers are nothing but mercenaries.

When he retires and sits down to discuss his career with his kids and his grandkids, what will he be able to tell them? What medals will he be able to show as reward for his footballing career? Or will he be content to tell of how he didn’t actually win anything or play in the Champions League, but he was on £100,000 a week? He was not guaranteed medals by coming to Anfield, and it’s maybe delusional and arrogant to suggest he would be, but our chances of silverware are infinitely more obvious than that of an emerging Manchester City who have now gone 33 years without a trophy.

Lucas Neill was the last player to pass up the opportunity to come to Anfield and play for a side challenging for the league title and European Cup each year; instead preferring to sign for West Ham due to the £70,000 a week he was offered. Money seems to motivate far more than the chance to play at the highest level and win medals.

Gareth Barry may live to regret passing up the opportunity to come to Anfield, or he could become an integral part of a Manchester City side that forces their way into the top 4 and begins to challenge for major honours; only time will tell.

But yet again a player has been lured with money rather than medals. A further indication into the orientation of today’s game. Sad times when players settle for an extra couple of million rather than striving for silverware and testing themselves amongst the best around.

Liverpool Football Club will forget about Gareth Barry soon enough. Gareth Barry may never forget the day he passed up the opportunity to come here.

  • Paul Jones is the Liverpool fan correspondent on the Times Online Fanzone.