Regarded as one of darts’ greatest enigmas, Raymond van Barneveld walked away from the sport in 2019 after the 2019-20 World Championship. After suffering a first-round defeat to Darin Young, the Dutchman stated that he would “never forgive” himself following his below-par final year on the tour. However, in typical Van Barneveld fashion, the 53-year-old is targeting a return to the circuit through Q School in 2021. So, let’s consider whether Barney is right to launch a comeback.
Like many sports, darts is one of unpredictability. In short, because of that, writing off Van Barneveld long before he’s appeared at qualifying school would be a mistake. However, the question must be asked as to whether he still has the ability and hunger to battle the likes of Glen Durrant, Michael van Gerwen, and Peter Wright on a regular basis. According to his profile at Darts Database, he has dropped to 52nd in the DDB rankings and last won an individual major in 2014. Since 2007, Barney has clinched just four televised trophies. Not only that, but his previous two final appearances in The Masters in both 2015 and 2018 saw him twice lose out to Van Gerwen.
As per a report from World News Today, the three-time World Champion, MVG, suggested that the 53-year-old didn’t fully support his earlier farewell. If this is the case, then it’s clear to see why the icon of darts would want to make a comeback. However, since he’s stepped away, the level of competition has gone up another level. While the reigning World Champion, Wright, has added much-needed consistency to his throw, the likes of Durrant, Gerwyn Price, Michael Smith, and Nathan Aspinall have also raised their performance levels to new heights.
Any darts fan across the globe would welcome a competitive, hungry Van Barneveld back to the sport with open arms. However, therein lies the problem. There are no guarantees that Barney will be able to compete in an era of darts that is rapidly becoming taken over by youthfulness. The manner in which RVB walked away from the sport will likely still haunt both himself and his supporters, who had become accustomed to seeing the 53-year-old overcome darts’ finest players for over two decades.
If he can secure his tour spot through Q School, then he may target a return to the Netherlands’ World Cup of Darts team. In 2020, Danny Noppert will partner Van Gerwen, and they are currently 2/1 to win the event in the darts betting, as of November 4th. Having played with MVG four times internationally, the pair with eight World Championships between them lifted the World Cup on three occasions, losing out only once to Adrian Lewis and Phil Taylor in 2016.
From the outset, it looks unlikely that the 53-year-old will dominate the world of darts as he did during his peak years. That said, the natural talent that Van Barneveld possesses means that he’ll still cause problems for a lot of high-level players. Before he can think about televised majors, however, he must first get through the ever-competitive Q School.