There are few topics about which John Barnes has not spoken eloquently and accurately. He has been a voice of reason and intelligence on a number of topics for years, commenting perhaps most frequently on racism in both society and sport. Whenever he speaks it's worth listening, as he never fails to strike a balance between a number of perspectives and opinions, which has proven a rare quality among former professionals who quickly find themselves sucked into a media environment that almost demands loud, outspoken, and divisive commentary rather than a calm, reasoned analysis.
That is what John Barnes provides without fail, so it's little surprise that his thoughts on Steven Gerrard's decision to leave Liverpool manage to be validating of all involved while still acquitting the club from the absurd suggestion that they are somehow at fault for the captain's decision to leave:
"I don't think that they are forcing Steven out. I think that he has decided that he wants to play more regularly than it has probably been intimated to him that he will, so he has decided to move on. I don't think that Liverpool should have been held to ransom to say give Steven Gerrard anything he wants to stay. When you do get to a certain stage of your career things change. I'm sure Liverpool would like him to stay but obviously under different circumstances in terms of the contract he will be offered with the finances. I suppose Steven will then have to maybe accept that he will probably not play as much as he would like. He has felt he does not want to stay under those circumstances so he leaves but that is fine as everybody's career comes to an end."
Reasonable and, while still an opinion, one that seems most reflective of reality. There's really no "wrong" in the situation, only the feeling that this is a player who should be ending his career at Liverpool. That he's not is nobody's fault other than his, and Barnes' statements about the club not needing to meet Gerrard's demands are on the money as ever. Liverpool very well could have ensured that Gerrard stuck around for a further 18 months or two years, but as mentioned, they would have had to promise something they simply couldn't offer given his age and current ability.
In the end, there doesn't really need to be any fault in the situation, and at least on the surface, nobody actually involved in the situation appears to think there is. Supporters' reactions have understandably been divided, but now that John Barnes has spoken, little more needs to be said.
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