Soccer’s Choose Your Own Adventure: Gareth Barry
You’re Gareth Barry.
For 16 years you’ve played in the Premier League, beginning your career at Aston Villa in 1998. For eleven years you wore the claret & blue, patrolling the Villa Park midfield and rising to prominence with the likes of Dion Dublin, Paul Merson, Ashley Young and Gabby Agbonlahor.
Labeled Mr. Consistency, you logged 388 appearances for the Villains (notching 47 goals and 27 assists along the way) before catching the eye of Manchester City in 2009.
The Citizens handed Villa a $20 million (£12m) transfer fee and signed you to a five year deal paying out at $168,000 (£100k) per week. Over that time you became a fixture of the City midfield and notably partnered Yaya Toure in the holding midfield role on the squad hoisted the 2011/12 Premier League title.
Then, prior to your final season under contract at City, an influx of world-class players and a new manager in Manuel Pellegrini rendered you surplus goods. Enter Everton, who offered you a life-line and starting job under new manager Roberto Martinez. Under the Spanish gaffer you thrived, enjoying what was arguably your best professional season on record.
And now here you stand: 33-years old, out of contract and available on a free transfer.
Your options are as follows:
A) Push hard to re-sign a 1-year deal at City where you’ll compete for domestic and European titles and continue enjoying a 6 figure weekly salary. The down side, of course, is that except for the occasional League and FA Cup match, you’ll ride pine like Scott Sinclair (remember him?!).
B) Sign with Everton where you will remain in the Premier League, have a starting position, play in Europe (ok, the Europa League, but still...) and be beloved by fans. The downside is that you’ll need to cut your wages in half to go there, won’t have a shot at winning the Premier League title and will struggle to ever play again in the Champions League.
C) Sign with Arsenal, who are reportedly interested in you. But the same positives and negatives exist in North London as the do at the Etihad - you’ll constantly be wondering why guys like Mikel Arteta (who you are miles better than) continually starts over you. And even though the Gunners can afford to keep you flush, they won’t. You’ll make slightly more than you would at Everton and be half as involved.
D) Sign with QPR or Stoke City. Yep, these clubs want you as well. You like the occasional cracking tackle so in theory Stoke could work but you’re too intelligent to play there -- you enjoy the finer things in life, the vast majority of which are found away from the Britannia. QPR may look good on paper (they can certainly keep you well paid) but the idea of lining up alongside Joey Barton is almost as troubling as spending the season with a make-shift, over-touted and under-performing squad destined for a relegation race.
E) Sign with NYCFC. Get paid like you’re still at City, play-make for David Villa and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (I’m convinced this will happen in 2016), be left Papparazzi-free so you can do things like drink at random East Village bars and, ultimately, become a NYC icon and MLS legend.
Choose wisely, my friend.