Following a crushing 7-1 defeat to compatriot Michael Van Gerwen in Rotterdam last week, an emotional Raymond Van Barneveld announced his immediate retirement from the sport, bringing forward his decision to withdraw from competitive darts after originally planning to bow out at the end of this year.
But Van Barneveld’s manager Jaco van Bodegom believes that the announcement was merely made in the heat of the moment and that the 5-time world champion will play out the remained of his farewell year on tour. Providing that is the case, the 51-year-old fan favourite will attract plenty of attention with darts enthusiasts keen to lap up ‘Barney’s’ last year on tour.
That in itself should make for some compelling match-ups and one in particular that fans will want to see a few more times before Barney hangs up the darts is the big Dutchman against James Wade, one of his long-time rivals.
Van Barneveld and Wade have had a close and storied rivalry dating back to 2002 and enjoyed a number of high-profile clashes in the late noughties when they were both at the top of their game – most notably when Van Barneveld beat wade in the 2009 PDC World Championship semi-final.
They have met 52 times, with Van Barneveld leading the head-to-head 25-23 with 4 matches drawn. Maybe Wade can level that up before Barney calls it quits?
According to Phil Taylor, this is the only real rivalry in darts at present, with former World Champion Gary Anderson and Northern Irishmen Daryl Gurney having a very public spat when Anderson stormed off stage following a one-sided 3-0 defeat at last October’s World Grand Prix.
Anderson accused Gurney of mumbling behind him to put him off when he was stood at the oche, which Gurney denies. Gurney also famously came back from 4–1 down to win 7 legs in a row and defeat Anderson 8–4 in the semi-finals of the US Dart Masters in 2017.
As Taylor says: “(The) next time they play each other, the viewing figures will be massive.”
Another high-profile rivalry that Anderson will be involved in this year is one with his fellow leading Scotsman Peter Wright, who at the end of March sits one place above Anderson at 3rd in the world rankings.
Wright and Anderson are 3rd and 4th in the rankings respectively behind Van German and Rob Cross and they are each among the favourites to win any event they enter, including next year’s PDC World Championship. At the time of writing, Anderson is a best-priced 8/1 2nd favourite behind Van Gerwen while Snakebite is as short a 14/1 to win at Ally Pally.
Rob Cross is the fairy-tale story of darts in recent years with his 2018 World Championship victory and has since cemented his place at the top table of the PDC, currently 2nd in the rankings behind Van Gerwen.
But fellow Englishman Michael Smith has been knocking on the door for some time now and came close at the most recent World Championships, beaten 7-3 by Van Gerwen in the final. Smith – who sits at 6th in the rankings at present – won his first title on the World Series of Darts at the 2018 Shanghai Masters with an 8–2 win over Cross in the final, and although he trails their head-to-head 11-3 (including two defeats in recent weeks) the pair look set to have an engaging rivalry for the rest of this year and beyond.
If there is one man who is perhaps in need of a rivalry it’s Van Gerwen, with the reigning world champion currently appearing peerless at the top of the sport and already an even-money favourite with most bookmakers to retain his world championship at next year’s event and is a best-price of 6/5 on the Ladbrokes app for Android and iPhone.
But the intrigue for darts fans will be in seeing if anyone can bring Mighty Mike down. Already some distance clear as the world number one, it quite simply is Van Gerwen vs the field.