Football: Barnes puzzled by enforced Anfield exit

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The Independent Online
John Barnes was preparing for life after Liverpool yesterday and admitted he was "surprised" the Anfield club were letting him go.

Liverpool have agreed to give Barnes a free transfer, a move which has left the 33-year-old former England midfielder insisting he is still good enough to play in the Premiership.

"I think I should be playing in Liverpool's first team," he said. "I asked the club whether they wanted me in their plans and I was told they were willing to give me a free transfer.

"That says to me I do not have a future at Liverpool. If they had said they may need me in Europe, or they may need me for the odd occasion, of course I would have been happy to stay at Liverpool. That would have told me they wanted me around, but a free transfer says to me that I have no future at the club."

Barnes was left out of Saturday's Premiership opening match at Wimbledon and was told by the Liverpool manager, Roy Evans, he could leave the club. That has created a surge of interest in the player, with Southampton, West Ham, Crystal Palace and his former club Watford all wanting his services.

Barnes said yesterday: "There is no sourness about this, although I have not actually left yet. I'm grateful and a bit surprised that they have allowed me to go on a free, they could have asked for cash but it is recognition of my service to the club."

Barnes was dropped towards the end of last season's failed title run-in, and in the summer Evans bought Paul Ince, Danny Murphy and Oyvind Leonhardsen. Michael Thomas, Jamie Redknapp, Steve McManaman and Patrik Berger are also competing for midfield places, and Barnes felt the signs were clear.

Barnes said: "I still I feel I can play in the Premiership. I don't see how I could have been a main player in the squad going for the championship - that is, until the Manchester United home game - if I wasn't.

"There were people at the time who were saying I was making Liverpool play, talking, keeping them going, then half-way through the second half of the United game all of a sudden it is finished."

Liverpool lost that game at Anfield to the eventual champions, a result that virtually assured United retained their title.

"I have hardly played a game since then, but I still think I can do a job at any Premiership club, although it's obviously not going to be here," Barnes said.

"I want this resolved but I also know that I want to make the right decision. This is going to be my last contract somewhere, but it has to be right after I have considered all the options. I have no preference about whether I move areas; my wife has said she will be happy to go anywhere.

"I haven't had any offers yet but the mobile phone is already ringing and it feels pretty hot at the moment. We shall just have to wait and see."