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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Footballers are a funny lot. Sometimes, it's like they have their own language. In their world an 'egg' or a 'nugget' means a foolish person, 'beans-on-toast' means the goalpost and 'I want to play Champions League football,' actually means, 'To hell with that, I want to earn more money in a week than most FTSE-listed companies.' Nothing destroys a man's principles quicker than a big pile of cash, does it?

There shouldn't be anything surprising about Gareth Barry's decision to leave Aston Villa for Manchester City, it is reported to be for a 150% payrise after all, but it's the nakedness of his motives that repulses. Most Villa fans had accepted that their late slide out of the top four would mean his departure, but they certainly didn't expect him to join a team that had finished beneath them. Never mind Champions League football, City aren't even in the Europa League!

Barry has said that he is joining City because they are a team with potential who are going in the right direction. As opposed to Aston Villa who, with their ever-improving league performances, enormous fan base, generous chairman and superb manager, are so obviously on their uppers.

I haven't got anything against footballers leaving their clubs to earn extra money elsewhere. It's the bare-faced lies that annoy me. Lord knows, if The Straits Times ever offered me GBP100,000 a week, I'd be on a plane before you finished reading this paragraph, but I wouldn't try and kid you that I was leaving because I'd always wanted to write for a newspaper with really big pages. If you're going for the money, just say it. If Barry actually said, "Look, they want to pay me so much that I could buy a Ferrari every Monday morning and still have change left over," I'd be the first to pat him on the back and ask if I could borrow a tenner.

He's not the first and he wont be the last. Lucas Neill, the 'lifelong Liverpool fan', once tried to convince us that he joined West Ham for footballing reasons and not because they waving a paycheque at him that dwarfed Liverpool's offer. This week may see the end of Carlos Tevez's universal appeal if, as has been reported, he rocks up at Eastlands as well. No doubt, Kia Joorbiachian will tell us that he's there for footballing reasons as well.

No-one can stop a man from earning his own body-weight in gold if that's what he choose to do, but there are ways of doing it. Olof Melberg served Villa with distinction for several years before leaving for Juventus. He didn't make a fuss, he didn't try and force his manager's hand with a warts'n'all tabloid interview. When Mellberg left, he left for a bigger club offering a higher level of football and more money. Everyone understood it, everyone accepted it and he was given a standing ovation after his final game. When he returns to Villa Park next season, Barry is unlikely to be afforded the same reception.

I hope he enjoys his money but I fear that, like all the other mercenaries before him, he'll learn an important lesson at the end of all this. One of the many things that you just can't buy, even with a contract at Manchester City, is honour.