When Everton completed a season long loan deal for Gareth Barry on deadline day, many Evertonians were right to question it. A player many had disregarded after a mauling at the hands of Germany during the World Cup in South Africa, Barry had found himself unwanted at Manchester City despite four years of stellar service. Roberto Martinez sensed a golden opportunity, and wasted no time bringing in an older and wiser head to guide his younger stars, refusing to share Mr Pelligrini's belief that the midfielder was past his best.
Barry's debut against Chelsea at Goodison Park quickly dispelled any doubts, demonstrated in a flying last ditch tackle to deny Samuel Eto'o a debut goal, and was an early sign of things to come. It is hard to argue that Martinez's faith has not been re-payed in full, following impressive performances in every game he has featured in, and even the occasion goal, the pick of the bunch being a wonder strike against Norwich last weekend. In fact, such has Barry's influence been on the whole team that the loss at parent club Manchester City was attributed to his absence more than individual errors and bad refereeing decisions.
Credit must go to Gareth Barry too. He could have easily stayed at Manchester City and picked up his wages without playing, but instead took a risk in moving to Everton, a club who could be on the decline following the departure of David Moyes, or so the pundits would have you believe anyway. As a result of Martinez selling both the club and the role he would play in their future, as well as a continued push for the Champions League, all indications are that Barry's stay will not be a short term one. In a recent interview with The Telegraph, he describes how the manager dealt with his future early on, leaving the player free to play his football without burdens."From day one, the manager said: ‘I'm not going to put any pressure on you throughout the season, we'll have the conversation in the summer, see how the club feel about you, see how you feel about the club and take it from there.' I'm more than halfway through the season now and it couldn't have gone any better. It's going to be a nice conversation to be having come the end of the season.'' Despite it only being January, already he has declared that he wants to stay beyond the current season's end, and has ambitions of making the England squad once more too.
Everton will also be keen to make a deal happen in the summer. Barry has entirely bought into what it means to play for the club, putting his body on the line and thoroughly enjoying his football, receiving praise from pundits and fans alike. Recent quotes will also endear him to the Everton faithful beyond the levels of love he has already received, as he speaks highly of the supporters and their love of the club, whilst maintaining that every time he is asked if he is staying, his answers of "hopefully" are as genuine as they can be. He will also sense an opportunity for a second bite at the cherry of Champions League football, whilst a return to the England set up is being discussed more frequently as the weeks go by.
Should Everton qualify for the Champions League, the permanent signing of Barry could prove to be a masterstroke. He has a raft of Champions League experience from his time at Manchester City, where it is easy to forget he won a title and FA Cup. He also has an enormous amount of international experience, having featured in that disappointing 2010 World Cup tournament and all of it's successful qualifying campaign. All of this experience will only help to aid the continuing development of players such as Ross Barkley, who the midfielder describes as "a big wildcard England should use."
Though most Evertonians will agree he is not the most stellar of signings in the manner of Romelu Lukaku, they cannot argue against his performances and ever improving relationship with James McCarthy in Everton's midfield. Most of the fan base will hope that bigger named, permanent signings are on the horizon in the last weeks of January and the summer also, but there would be little argument should Gareth Barry be declared the signing of the season both this summer, and hopefully the next one too.
[Editor's note: We corrected an earlier error where we suggested that Barry was the only current Everton player to win an FA Cup or Premier League title]