Football: Barnes free to leave Liverpool

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The Independent Online
John Barnes has been granted a free transfer by Liverpool after a decade at the club. Barnes, 34 in November, was Liverpool captain last season but began this campaign as a non-playing substitute during the club's 1-1 draw at Wimbledon on Saturday.

Yesterday Roy Evans, the Liverpool manager, said Barnes wanted to continue playing first- team football but accepted his chances were likely to be limited at Anfield. This summer Liverpool signed three midfielders.

"He wants to be in the starting line-up, not on the bench," Evans said. "In view of his service to the club we have given him a free transfer. He can leave as soon as he gets the right offer." It had been thought Barnes would progress to the club's coaching staff but he is evidently not ready to finish playing.

Barnes joined Liverpool from Watford for pounds 900,000 in the summer of 1987. Originally a winger his game evolved as he aged until he became a deep-lying midfielder relying on his passing to beat defenders where once he had used his speed and dribbling ability.

He played 407 times for the club scoring 108 goals. He was the last surviving member of the Liverpool squad to have won a championship medal with the club having been part of the 1988 and 1990 title-winning sides. He also won an FA Cup and Coca-Cola Cup winners' medals.

Depending on his personal terms several clubs will be interested in Barnes, who was capped 79 times by England. Obvious candidates include Middlesbrough, Derby County, Bolton and Tranmere. More intriguing possibilities are Everton and Watford where the manager who discovered him, Graham Taylor, is back in charge.

When Barnes joined Liverpool he became the first black player to hold down a regular place at the club. On Saturday Liverpool fielded four black players, it would have gone unremarked were it not that Barnes was not among them. That, as much as his caps and medals, has been his contribution to Merseyside football.

Liverpool look ahead, page 5

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