Leighton Baines has revealed that the Manchester City players couldn’t believe it when they discovered Gareth Barry had been allowed to join Everton.
Barry had played a key role in the Blues’ FA Cup success of 2011 and their Premier League triumph the following year, and in all competitions, he racked up over 170 appearances following his £12million transfer from Aston Villa in the summer of 2009. However, he had fallen down the pecking order since the arrival of Manuel Pellegrini, who bolstered his midfield by signing Brazil international Fernandinho from Shakhtar Donetsk for a reported fee of £20million.
The writing was on the wall for the 32-year-old when he wasn’t included in the travelling party for the pre-season friendly with Arsenal in Finland, and when he was excluded from the matchday squad for all three opening matches of the current campaign, it seemed inevitable he would move on. And on deadline day the Toffees took the England international on a season long loan deal, which will take him up to the expiry of his Etihad Stadium contract.
Although it became clear early on in Pellegrini’s reign that the Chilean tactician didn’t fancy Barry, it still came as a shock to his former team-mates when his move to Goodison Park was rubberstamped. However, City’s loss is a gain for the Toffees, and his new colleague Baines is certainly glad to be lining up alongside a man who has 53 caps for his country.
“I’ve known Gareth through the England set-up and I’ve always rated him really highly,” he said. “The City lads on the last international break were saying that they can’t believe that they haven’t kept him. That says enough about his worth for any team he plays in. Everyone rates him who he plays with and he has come in and shown what a great asset he is going to be for us.”
Barry was excellent as he made his debut in Everton’s 1-0 win over Chelsea on Saturday evening, with his block on Samuel Eto’o a particular highlight as the goal was gaping for the Cameroon international. And the former Villa skipper has revealed his expectation that Roberto Martinez’s side can challenge for a place in Europe this season.
“Nobody is that stable and nobody looks like they will run away with the league. That means there could be a surprise this season, you never know,” he said. “And from an Everton point of view, we want to get into the mix and finish as high as we can. Getting into Europe with Everton has to be a target. And the longer the season goes on, the more we’ll set ourselves more targets.”