A former Manchester City, Everton, Aston Villa and England midfielder.
Now, he is a former football player. Full stop.
“It was very strange, really,” the 39-year-old says of his retirement, which came late last month. “I was away in Portugal when I announced it, away from all the media. I had a bit of time there to think about it. It’s slightly emotional, really, what you’re leaving behind… what you have achieved.
“I will miss the dressing room and seeing the lads, playing in front of packed stadiums with deafening atmospheres. When [fans] do eventually come back, that’s when it will probably hit me; that’s what football’s all about.
“But life goes on and I’m ready for the new life ahead, whatever that will be.”
So far, it’s been cricket on Saturdays, playing alongside friends for Temple Grafton in a Cotswolds league.
“I loved playing at school,” Barry says. “Twenty odd years of not playing cricket and then I played a couple at the end of last season, but I’ve played 18 games in a row this summer in the local village, to keep that team sort of thing going. I’ve been going in to bat fifth… But it’s a long winter without cricket, so I’ll be watching the football!”
Barry, who made more appearances than any other player in Premier League history with 653 outings, will certainly be watching the football this weekend as two of his former teams go head to head, Everton hosting West Brom in the top flight on Saturday on BT Sport 1. And his expectations are high for the Toffees this season, with high-calibre players having joined one of the world’s best managers in Carlo Ancelotti.
“Their targets have to be breaking back into the top six,” Barry says. “The expectations of somewhere like Everton can’t be petering around mid-table. They wanna be playing in Europe every season, so top six this season will be a great year. I know Ancelotti’s sort of set the team that target. It won’t be easy – there’s a lot of quality teams up there with fantastic squads, too – but the initial signs of a tough game away at Tottenham were very exciting.”
Everton’s three major midfield signings – James Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure – all lined up in that 1-0 win over Spurs, and each man impressed, needing no time at all to settle in at their new club.
“I think they were real clever signings,” Barry says. “Ancelotti would have looked at last season and felt: ‘Where do we need to strengthen?’ And I felt the same – they were maybe a bit soft through the centre – so to bring in two players in similar positions in Doucoure and Allan, that tells a big story in itself. Looking at the first game of the season, both put in fantastic performances and, as a unit, really made the team solid.
“And James, he’s that real star, X-factor signing that will excite not just Everton fans but the Premier League fans. He’s not gonna be afraid of any of the Premier League strength, hustle and bustle, tempo. He seemed really up for it [against Spurs]. He should bring out the best of the other players in that squad, too. He’s going to bring that extra quality that you’re gonna need to be competing with the big teams. He’ll take bits of pressure off the other players, too, like Richarlison, who could maybe improve playing with him.”
Though these dynamic new signings have only just arrived at Goodison Park, many are already questioning how long they’ll be working under Ancelotti, who has coached Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Napoli, but who has only once managed a club for more than two years.
“It’s a different sort of club than he would have been used to,” Barry says. “The expectations of his former teams have been winning titles and trophies year in, year out. This is more of a long-term project, if you like. So, in terms of that, I can’t see him just wanting to be around for a couple of seasons. I’m sure he’s got a plan for the club and that’s why they’ve brought him in. Big-name manager, he’s started bringing in some big-name players like Rodriguez, and I’m sure he won’t want to stop there.”
Indeed, fans will hope Barry is correct, and that a crucial moment in the club’s development could be imminent. Barry recalls such a moment at Manchester City in 2011, as Roberto Mancini’s team approached the apex in England.
“[There was a] speech; Patrick [Vieira] spoke to us at Wembley. For me it changed the mindset of that dressing room, and that year we did go on to win the FA Cup – the next season the Premier League came. So it is that changing sort of moment where Everton need to get to, competing at that top level. Certainly they’re making steps towards that, and that next moment is gonna be really vital if they wanna be competing up there.”
For newly-promoted West Brom, focusing on the short-term and staying in the Premier League is equally vital, Barry says. Slaven Bilic’s side endured a sobering re-entry to the top flight last weekend as they were beaten 3-0 at home by Leicester.
“I feel they’ve just got to keep belief in that dressing room,” Barry says. “It’s gonna be a long, tough season for them. I don’t think we can get away from that. It will have been a real eye-opener, the quality they faced in Leicester. But there’s a lot more games ahead and they need to keep the belief.
“They’ve got a lot of good, young players. I like the long-term signings the club have made. There’s no point getting down about one performance. This could be the perfect game to get that belief, going away to Everton, who people are gonna now feel will roll West Brom over. Slaven will have a big part to play now to keep that belief inside the dressing room.”
A could Barry one day return to the dressing room, as a manager?
Rather on the cricket field than beside the football pitch, is Barry’s mindset for now.
“It’s a difficult one,” Barry admits, “because a lot of my team-mates and friends just look at me and think: ‘You’ve got management material.’
“But me personally, inside, I don’t feel that I want to do it. I’m not sure why, but I suppose you’ve got to go with your instincts and – at the minute – that’s not for me.”
The BT Sport Monthly Pass lets you watch BT Sport for a simple monthly fee of £25 with no contract. Customers can watch all BT Sport Premier League fixtures for the next 30 days including Everton vs West Bromwich Albion from 11.30am on Saturday 19 September. For more info visit bt.com/monthlypass