Gareth Barry had concerns over the long-term future of manager Mark Hughes before doubling his income in a move to Manchester City, the £12m signing revealed yesterday.
Hughes's future was the subject of conjecture throughout last season, affecting the club's attempts to deal in the transfer market and forcing Barry to make his own inquiries. "I've seen it before," he said. "Players join clubs then two months later the manager is gone and their future is uncertain. That was the last thing I wanted to happen here. I didn't want to be coming here and find myself playing under someone else. I needed to know about the manager's future."
In an 800-word letter to a Birmingham paper, Barry tried to answer criticisms that he left for the money – he is believed to have taken his salary to around £100,000 a week. "People will question this decision but I'm confident that in a couple of years time people will realise I made the right decision," he said.
He also compounded the frustration felt by Villa fans desperate not to see him go by suggesting that he would still be back in the Midlands had the club made it into the top four of the Premier League last season. "If Villa had finished fourth I would have stayed. I would have enjoyed playing Champions League football at Villa Park," Barry said. "It would have been wrong for me to have left had this been achieved. But once it was looking like Villa weren't going to make it then my future became unclear. I don't want to compare the two clubs because that wouldn't be fair. But the whole point of me coming here was to have a change, something that excites me."
Villa's James Milner has expressed his disappointment at Barry's departure. "He has been at Villa for a long time and I suppose he has reached the point where he feels he needs a fresh start and a fresh challenge," said the winger. "He has made what he thinks is the best decision for him."
The target set for Hughes by City's Abu Dhabi owners is a top-six finish next season – considerably short of Barry's professed Champions League ambitions of last summer when he was keen for a move to Liverpool. However, he said that "playing in the Champions League with Manchester City is viable" and declared that Hughes had convinced him "we can reach these heights."
Meanwhile, Hughes said Manchester United would struggle to replace Cristiano Ronaldo following the club's acceptance of an £80m deal for the midfielder to move to Real Madrid. "When you take an individual like that out of a top team you can never feel completely comfortable unless you replace them like for like," said the former United player.