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Should Everton Keep Gareth Barry?

The 33-year-old Englishman has played some tremendous football for the Toffees this season, but is he a smart option for the club going forward?

Scott Heavey

Gareth Barry was as solid as ever in the weekend's victory over Cardiff City, as Sean rightfully points out here. The central midfielder has gone through some ups and downs throughout the season, as have most Everton players, but by and large, Barry has been a consistent, calming force for the Toffees.

Barry, on loan from Manchester City, will be a free agent at the end of this season. It seems unlikely that City will want to re-sign the England international, who will likely be behind Yaya Toure, Fernandinho, Javi Garcia, and perhaps even former Toffee Jack Rodwell on the depth chart at central midfield.

That certainly will open the door for Everton to snatch the 33-year-old, who has been an excellent fit in Roberto Martinez's system and a reliable cog in a team that has been dealing with a seemingly endless injury list.

There is one massive problem that stands in Bill Kenwright's way: Barry's gargantuan wage bill, reportedly around 100,000 pounds a week. For a club that continues to work on a shoestring budget, dropping such a staggering amount on a player who will be 34 next season seems illogical.

The Mirror reported on March 1 that Martinez and Everton were mulling a 3 year, 50,000 pound a week deal for Barry, which would put the midfield in an Everton kit through his 36th birthday. To sign a player of similar quality in the transfer market for less would be difficult, unless Martinez and Kenwright could find another player who is coming out of contract.

Perhaps then, the question is not necessarily about Barry's worth, but the need for a player of his caliber (and price tag) in the center of midfield after this season.

James McCarthy, Barry's midfield partner for almost all of his time with the club, has also proven to be an excellent addition. McCarthy, only 23 years old and under contract until 2018, certainly figures into the long-term future of the club.

If McCarthy and Barry were the only top senior central midfielders at the club, the decision about Barry's future would be straightforward, and Barry would very likely be spending at least one more year in the Everton blue. However, things are slightly more complicated than that.

Darron Gibson remains the wild card in these considerations. When healthy, the 26-year-old Irishman is a first XI caliber midfielder, and certainly Roberto Martinez views Gibson as such. But the "when healthy" qualifier is what has derailed the last 2 years of Gibson's career.

Injury limited Gibson to 26 matches in all competitions last season, and 15 matches in the 2011-12 season after debuting for the club on January 14. This year, he only featured in two matches before a knee injury once again placed him on the injured list, potentially for the rest of the season. Can Gibson actually stay healthy for an entire season? Certainly Martinez and Kenwright will have this question quite clearly in their minds as they ponder Barry's Everton future.

In an ideal world, Everton would love to have all three players. The idea of having Barry, Gibson, and McCarthy all healthy and available to play must bring Everton supporters joy, but there is a harsh reality that goes along with that dream.

If Everton can afford to have 3 players at the same position that are of absolute first XI quality at all, it is at the cost of being losing depth at other positions. If Martinez and Kenwright invest nearly 8 million pounds in Gareth Barry, that is 8 million pounds that are not going toward a striker that will be desperately needed after Romelu Lukaku leaves; 8 million pounds that are not going toward extra depth at center back as Sylvain Distin and Antolin Alcaraz get older; 8 million pounds that are not going toward another play-maker on the wings or behind the striker.

In the end, that's what it comes down to (and often does) for Everton. If Darron Gibson is healthy and ready to play come the start of next season, re-signing Barry just doesn't make financial sense for the club. Of course, Gibson's health appears to always be a question mark, so can he be trusted to be the sort of reliable player that Barry has been this season?

If not, things get much more complicated, and Everton may have little choice but to bring Barry back.

What do you think? Should Everton re-sign Gareth Barry? Have your say in the poll below, and explain your choice in the comments!