As Aston Villa’s European dreams come to a halt, manager Martin O’Neill says he would allow Gareth Barry to move on if the midfielder so desires. Once again, Barry is expected to request a move to Liverpool. We all remember the tiresome saga of his transfer attempt last summer when Liverpool tried to unload Xabi Alonso to fund Villa’s hefty asking price, a reported 18m. Now that a year has been knocked off Barry’s contract, the price could drop as low as 10m.
But Liverpool should not go after Barry again.
In the year since Rafa Benitez tried to get a hold of Villa’s talented England midfieler, Xabi Alonso has had one of his finest seasons yet. Arguably, Liverpool’s best player this season, Alonso’s poise, playmaking and drive has been instrumental in keeping Liverpool title hopes alive so deep into the season. If Alonso is injured or suspended Lucas Leiva is decent cover or Steven Gerrard can pull back from his more attacking role.
Liverpool could use a backup for Javier Mascherano. Mascherano’s contribution to Liverpool’s game is immense, in attack and defense. His absence during the first leg of the Champions League quarter finals led to Chelsea causing Liverpool endless problems as Lucas simply isn’t strong enough to fill Mascherano’s boots. The Blues scored three away goals and carried a two goal league back to Stamford Bridge, which ultimately saw Liverpool out of the competition. Evidence that Liverpool could use another defensive mid.
Barry, with his strength and defensive instincts (he started his career as a defender) could fill this role, but would he be content as a 10m bench-warmer? He certainly shouldn’t be first choice over Alonso or Mascherano if their form continues.
Certainly, Liverpool need more depth to challenge for the title repeatedly for the years to come. Manchester and Chelsea have been the contenders because they each have almost two full starting line-ups worth of top-class players. But Barry is a true starter, not a squad player. If Liverpool go after another midfielder they need to find somebody strong but young. Someone willing to sit on the bench and grow into the team.
Yet, any serious money Liverpool spend will be expected to go toward a wider player.
Arjen Robben, Glen Johnson and Aaron Lennon names arise in the transfer rumors for Liverpool. David Silva as well who could fill the Kuyt/Benayoun role of playing in more than one position.
As for Barry, despite his dreams of top four glory, he should stay at Villa. If he moves to Liverpool he could follow in the footsteps of Robbie Keane: struggling to fit in a system that has no room for him. At Manchester or Chelsea he could be overshadowed. He might do well at Arsenal who could use his strength and experience to balance out their youthful side.
But at Villa, Barry could continue as a true leader and remain a part of a club that continues to rise. Villa’s early brilliant form this season is a sign of a bright future for the Birmingham club. They’ve hit a wall in the late season as their lack of depth shows. But if Barry stays and O’Neill buys, Villa could make a more serious bid for Europe next year, and Barry could yet see his ambitions realized with the club he’s been with since 1997.