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Farewell Team GB

Gareth Barry’s reluctant departure from Manchester City was confirmed with just minutes remaining before the transfer window slammed shut last night.

Having revealed to Read But Never Red last week that he was leaving the Etihad for Everton after four very successful seasons, Gareth’s Goodison move finally came through as the Toffees chewed up the deadline day headlines.

City’s midfield general will be joining Wigan’s James McCarthy and Chelsea’s Romalu Lukaku on the blue side of Stanley Park, as Roberto Martinez wheeled and dealed right up to the 23.00hrs transfer cut-off point.

It was a hub of activity as Belgium’s most famous marauding mop-head, Marouane Fellaini was re-united with the Gollum the Glaswegian Gargoyle at The Swamp and Victor Anichebe move out to WBA.

Entering the final year of his five-year contract, Barry (32), clearly didn’t fit into Manuel Pellegrini’s plans, having been left out of the pre-season trips to Germany and Finland.

So often the unsung hero in a City side that lifted the FA Cup and Premier League title in successive seasons, Barry’s contribution was appreciated by the overwhelming majority of City fans.

Unheralded and under-rated, Barry only really came to prominence if he gave an under par performance - hence he hardly ever grabbed the headlines because rarely did he under achieve in a City shirt.

The only game of his 175 appearances that readily springs to mind as a shocker was in last season’s abysmal 3-1 defeat away to Southampton. Even then he scored a superb goal with his weaker right foot – the only problem was he inexplicably put it past Joe Hart.

It’s a back-handed compliment but a heartfelt one, because Gareth Barry – City’s one man Team GB – was the consummate professional, certainly not short on talent and always huge on effort and, as we know, City fans will always, but always, love a trier.

A £12m buy from Aston Villa in June 2009, his arrival was a significant building block in laying the foundations for City’s forthcoming trophy winning trail. Bought under Mark Hughes’ managerial reign, Barry was integral in Roberto Mancini’s team, playing 34 out of 38 games as City clinched their first top flight title in 44 years.

Never a prolific goal scorer – he did score at the right end of the pitch eight times in City’s colours – and where better to open your account than Old Trafford.

Barry scored to level the Manchester derby at 1-1, before City suffered an infamous 4-3 defeat in extended double Fergie-time in the most exhilarating of encounters in September 2009.

Fast forward four years and the man with 53 England caps leaves the Etihad after falling behind the likes of Yaya Toure, Fernandinho, Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia in the central midfielder stakes.

The sentimentalists among the sky blue faithful would have liked him to stay, not only because of what he has achieved in the past, but also because he could still do a good job in domestic games.

Never the quickest of players he was sometimes derided as ‘Captain Slow’ an inappropriate and unfair tag. His lack of speed was, nonetheless, exposed at times during City’s ill-fated Champions League campaigns and this probably weighed heavily in Manuel Pellegrini’s thinking.

Sentiment aside, Barry was well down the selection pecking order and with something like a £120,000 weekly pay packet, an expensive luxury with UEFA’s ubiquitous Financial Fair Play regulations ready to bite.

City had wanted to sell him outright but, if Everton are paying a seven figure loan fee and all of Barry’s wages, the deal makes economic sense. Hopefully the days of excess, when City subsidised the salaries of players out on loan from the Etihad, are no more?

Of course there is the added bonus that Barry can further the Everton cause to the detriment of City’s title rivals, so good old Gareth can still play a part – albeit by proxy – in helping City win more silverware this season.

I probably reflect the thoughts of most, if not all City fans, in wishing Gareth great personal success at Everton and in whatever else awaits him in the twilight of his career. Like the proverbial Blue Moon, he will always have a place in our hearts because as things stand he is one of that rare breed – a Manchester City league title winner.

David Walker

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