Gareth Barry finally broke his silence regarding his future and his words could only have encouraged Liverpool.
After each season every player presumably takes stock about where they are going and perhaps Barry, at 27 years old, has had more cause to do so in the light of his extended run in the England side and his stint as Captain in Sunday’s “can we have your World Cup votes please” game? Add to this Aston Villa’s failure to qualify for Europe and it’s perhaps no surprise that the next logical step would be for Barry to think about moving on to a more competitive stage at club level by playing Champions League football?
“Champions League football helps any player. You only have to look at the England squad to see the amount of players who get in and start the games – the majority play in the Champions League. That’s all about the decision that will have to be made by myself. Liverpool are in the Champions League and Villa are trying to push for that. That’s all part of my decision if a bid gets accepted.”
The key to this seems to be in Barry’s last words, Villa’s acceptance of a bid. One can’t rule out other sides but for us this seems to depend on a increased offer which will in turn depend on the sale of Xabi Alonso to Juventus. Rafa seemingly can’t use funds from the sale of Peter Crouch as again clubs have not agreed with the price tag.
It’s all rather unsatisfactory that in the light of calls for the internal strife to be sorted, and the owners to back him with more funding, that Rafa should still have to resort to selling to buy or worse still Panini Sticker Business “I’ll swap you my John Arne Riise and Scott Carson for your Gareth Barry” There was one story in the paper that Rafa would eventually have £70m to spend this summer which looks like utter nonsense however, but surely we shouldn’t need to sell the likes of Alonso or Crouch to be able to afford Barry?
All things considered Rafa can’t be a happy man. As managers sit down to watch Euro 2008 presumably one of the main thoughts in their minds is “I hope none of my players get injured”. However, now it appears Rafa, along with others, has two tournaments to worry about, Euro 2008 and the Olympics! Ryan Babel, after Mascherano, Leto and Lucas, has become the latest player to dream about standing on the podium with a gold medal round his neck.
God bless Rafa he is many good things but an athlete he is not, remember his fall on the touchline at West Ham a few seasons back? He is hardly blessed with an Olympian physique! Perhaps that’s why he has such a downer on the current gathering in Beijing? For him Baron de Coubertin’s quote about taking part being the most important thing rather than the win does not wash. “Win” doesn’t even enter into the equation, Rafa has an issue with players “taking part”!
Ultimately Rafa is powerless to stop his players from going but presumably it won’t stop him from trying? He has already suggested that he has no issue with Leto and Lucas going but has voiced concerns about losing Mascherano to this tournament. Sadly for us the Argentinean seems adamant especially as his country are the defending champions.
“It’s important for any athlete to defend the gold medal. I might be the only person from my country ever to do it and I’ll go down in history. I owe Rafa a lot in my career and I’m very appreciative of him, but I want to go to Beijing because nothing counts for me more than helping my nation. He knows I leave my life on the pitch every time I play for Liverpool.”
As far as I can see he hasn’t said anything on the Ryan Babel issue yet. The Dutchman was used sparingly at the start of last season so on this evidence Rafa might not have any qualms about letting him play however, as the season progressed Babel became more of a fixture in the team. The added complication is the injury, to ankle ligaments, Babel recently received training with his national team. As a result he will miss two weeks of preseason training so will Rafa really want to fling him into a tournament such as the Olympics without being a certain he is fully recovered?
Finally, and unbelievably, according to UEFA we will start next seasons as Europe’s number one ranked team! This is largely due to our form in the Champions League which will put us first in the ranking, ahead of Milan and Chelsea. Complete and utter tosh of course and as unbelievable and unconvincing, albeit for different reasons, as the Eurovision Song Contest voting but at least it means that, as “number one” seeds, we will avoid other seeded teams in the qualifying draw and we are also six places ahead of the Mancs – “Save your Kisses for Me” Fergie!