Gareth Barry has been given a new lease of life by Everton in a move that could be really good news for the blue half of Merseyside – and, possibly, bad for the blue half of Manchester. Everton played hardball with Manchester United to get the fee, £27million, they wanted for midfielder Marouane Fellaini and then moved swiftly to sign Barry from Manchester City on a one-year loan deal, as well as spending around £13million on Wigan’s James McCarthy. McCarthy is a good player, one of the men who made the difference in the terrific, comeback win at West Ham. But I believe the acquisition of Barry might prove a masterstroke by Goodison manager Roberto Martinez.
This is a 32-year-old who is by no means past his best, a talented, vastly-experienced midfielder, a veteran of 500 league games and a player who still has the quality to get back into the England team, for whom he has not played since May last year. Barry spent 12 years at Aston Villa and the past four at Manchester City, where he was a key figure in their Premier League title win two seasons ago. I am not going to suggest that he will propel Everton to similar glory, but I do think he will prove to be an important component as my former club tries to build on an impressive start that sees them as the only unbeaten team after five matches. Barry has paid the price for City’s multi-million pound splurge on talent in the transfer window, but Everton’s gain might be City’s loss for here is a terrific signing, an often underrated player who wins the ball, takes it and passes it. He reminds me of one of the unsung heroes of my Everton team in the mid-90′s, Joe Parkinson, who did a similar holding job. Barry is on a one-season loan deal but I won’t be surprised if Everton are not talking to him, and to City, long before next summer about making the move permanent.
I am impressed by Everton’s encouraging start and thrilled for my friend and Goodison chairman Bill Kenwright and for the fans. Fellaini’s departure to Old Trafford has been more than compensated for by the arrival of Barry and McCarthy and the fact that Leighton Baines did not accompany Fellaini to Manchester United is another massive plus. Baines, for me, confirmed his status as the best English left-back – and undoubtedly best English free-kick striker – with his two tremendous goals at West Ham, which secured a second successive win, following the morale-boosting victory against Chelsea. Baines has been unlucky to be in the shadow of the consistent Ashley Cole, of Chelsea, who has won more than 100 caps, and the Evertonian will probably face further stiff competition for England recognition from the fast-rising Luke Shaw, of Southampton. Be that as it may, Baines is the top man right now in my opinion. It has been suggested that he wanted to go to United and I can only hope, for Everton’s sake, that that possibility does not resurface in the January transfer window.
The fans must hope that Baines grows more and more enthusiastic about what I see as an Everton squad rich in talent and potential. Young Ross Barkley has quickly confirmed my pre-season expectations. He has such power, pace and the confidence to run at the back four, a tactic that won the free-kick from which Baines struck the first of his goals at Upton Park. Lukaku, surprisingly allowed to leave Chelsea on loan, looks a real handful of a centre-forward. When I first noted him a couple of years ago I was reminded of a youthful Didier Drogba and it is a mystery that Jose Mourinho is reluctant to give him his chance. Lukaku, who was a big hit while on loan at West Bromwich Albion last season, started the move that led to his headed goal in the 3-2 win against The Hammers, but what really impressed me, a former centre-forward myself, was how he gave the pass then peeled off and moved into the box and was in position when the ball was chipped in. Add to that his bravery as he rose for the header and was simultaneously hit on the head by the challenging defender, a crack which left Lukaku dazed and unaware that he had scored. It is also worth noting that the pacey, left-sided Costa Rican Bryan Oviedo made a big impact when he came off the bench and operated in front of Baines. Oviedo, signed 13 months ago, did not get many opportunities last season, but that may be about to change under Martinez. When you consider that players like midfielders Pienaar and Gibson and striker Jelavic are waiting to make their mark, as an Evertonian you can look forward with optimism.