Gareth Barry made 132 Premier League appearances for City, from 2009-2013, out of a total of over 500. I used the past tense there because he isn’t coming back. Sorry.
His years with us were plagued by cries of, “but what does he do?” from the more uninformed supporters of other clubs, the kind who saw him fail to catch up with Mesut Ozil in the World Cup, whilst injured, and judged him forever more. He might never have been the flashiest, most imaginative player or scored dozens of match winning goals, but we knew how good he was. We knew how integral he was to our title winning side, how much of a rock he was during our (many) times of uncertainty. He was the platonic ideal of an unsung hero.
Early this season at Goodison Park, a lot of Everton fans joined the choir. “He’s so good, always where he needs to b…Oh my God!! He cleared it off the line!!”
“Yes,” the City fan sighs, with a shake of the head and a roll of the eyes. “We tried to tell you all but you wouldn’t listen. Welcome to the church. Please, sit where you like.”
The sad reality is that Barry’s City career is over. His contract is up in the Summer and the club have given no indication that they will be offering him an extension, despite the fact that he has still has so much to offer in the Premier League as has been demonstrated at Everton.
So where next?
Presumably his England career is over too, and conventional wisdom would see him playing in the Premier League for at least a few more seasons as he’s not yet into that thinking-about-retirement age bracket. But does he want to play a year or two for a mid table club, starting fewer and fewer games? He comes across as the sort of man who would rather retire with appropriate dignity than drop down through the leagues until he is the wrong side of 40.
There is a third way, a potential opportunity for him in New York in 2015 – the inaugural season of New York City FC. It would be a perfect fit.
Barry would get to play the final part of his career as a leader and a star instead of fading away as a squad player. He would be playing in a country where the locals didn’t unjustly look down on him for the aforementioned crime of not catching up to Ozil, but instead know him by reputation as a proven Premier League and Champion’s League performer. His no nonsense, professional attitude and his propensity to wear short sleeves in all weather (gloves? A snood? Jog on) wouldn’t go unnoticed either. MLS crowds are enthusiastic and hard to please, but the fact that he is so obviously a decent man who leads by example and is tough would have them backing him almost immediately.
From the perspective of NYCFC they would be gaining an anchor for their team who knows the ins and outs of a Manchester City-style organisation to help them chart unknown waters. The pressure that comes with being a new team in an established league would not faze him. Make no mistake, people will have the knives out for NYCFC from day one. A team funded by oil barons, loudly gate-crashing the league and in partnership with the widely, wildly hated Yankees? Managers, players, the press will all be out to get them, especially at the start. If Barry were to sign after the World Cup he would have enough time to prepare for the inaugural NYCFC season which begins in March 2015. A long run up will lead to all important stability on the pitch, which will help to create stability off it. Writing his name into the history books one more time would be a fitting end to a wonderful, if often unheralded, career.
Barry, or the Bazman if you will, is the hero Manchester City deserve, but not the one it needs right now. NYCFC however, will need someone very much like him. So why not, Gareth?
Written by Alex Timperley