GARETH BARRY is due to return to training at Manchester City this morning in an effort both to prove his fitness ahead of Monday’s trip to former club Aston Villa and to take a step towards earning a new contract at the Etihad.
The England midfielder has been out of action with an ankle injury since the 3-1 defeat at Southampton this month, during which Barry scored an embarrassing own goal past goalkeeper Joe Hart.
But after three weeks on the sidelines, the 32-year-old is expected back on the training pitch and will be in contention for a return to Roberto Mancini’s starting line-up at Villa Park if he emerges unscathed. With his City contract due to enter its final 12 months this summer, however, Barry faces a crucial end to the season. Talks have yet to start on a new deal.
Although Mancini regards the former Villa captain as a key figure, the return to fitness of £12million summer signing Jack Rodwell and Javi García’s progress in recent weeks has placed a doubt over Barry’s long-term prospects at City in the defensive midfield role.
Mancini is understood to be keen for Barry to be rewarded with a contract extension, but given that the player will have turned 33 when his current deal expires, he could be forced to accept a reduced salary and short contract.
City are expected to sell Joleon Lescott this summer, with the former Everton defender unlikely to be offered a new deal to replace the final 12 months of his contract.
Fringe players such as Aleksandar Kolarov, Scott Sinclair and Maicon are also likely to leave. Samir Nasri’s future is uncertain, but Barry’s versatility and consistency ensure that Mancini will fight to keep him if he remains as manager.