Stamford Bridge or Old Trafford – who represents the best move for his development?

When I first read the new that Chelsea were interested in signing Ross Barkley for £20 million I’d have to say I was rather flabbergasted. A 17-year-old and with only a handful of first team game under his belt it seems rather deranged that the new Blues boss Andre Villas-Boas would be prepared to pay that amount of money for such an inexperienced player. With Manchester United also interested in acquiring the teenagers signature and Barkley’s status as a supposed ‘wonder kid’ it seems likely that a bidding war will ensue between the Premier League giants.

It’s plausible to say that Everton will, in all probability, accept any bid for Barkley that matches or exceeds what Chelsea are reportedly ready to offer due to their perilous financial state. With the Toffees latest prodigy likely to leave Goodison Park in the near future and two of the countries leading clubs vying for his services, a big decision will have to be made over who will offer the best platform for him to achieve his potential. Would Barkley be better off moving to Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge?

He has certainly warranted the interest in him after putting in some eye-catching performances in the opening weeks of the season with many fans and pundits already tipping him to reach the pinnacle of English football having already broken into Stuart Pearce’s under-21 side. His stock sky-rocketed since he made his debut against QPR in August where he displayed a feather light tough, razor sharp vision and determined attitude that is absent in a lot of young players these days. With his eighteenth birthday fast approaching it’s amazing to think he is being linked with a big money move just weeks after his Premier League bow. At his age he is still a rough diamond that needs to extensively polished if he is to become the player he is prophesized to be.

With Man Utd and Chelsea on his tail there is only one place Barkley should think about going should an offer from either team ever materialises. It’s a club who has nurtured some of the best players on the planet turning them from hot prospects into world-class footballers. They have a manager who knows the ins and outs of refining young talent, putting them on the right track to global stardom and helping them achieve more in their careers than most others will.

In my opinion Barkley should look no further than Manchester United if he aspire to reach footballs top level. You only have to look at the faces who have graced Old Trafford in the last 20 years that have gone on to be recognized as some of the finest players that have ever stepped onto a football field. Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Gary Neville, Cristiano Ronaldo, Nicky Butt, Wayne Rooney, Nani, Darren Fletcher, Paul Ince, Roy Keane and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer are just a few names that roll off the tongue who have come through the academy or signed for the Red Devils at a relatively young age and benefitted from the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson. The club is recognized as having one of the finest youth setups in the world along with a clutch of quality coaches and Barkley should take this into account if he ever has to make a decision over who to join.

Chelsea are a good club but their track record of bringing through quality players pales in comparison to their rivals. The constant chopping and changing of managers in North London won’t benefit Barkley in the long run with Man Utd able to offer him a solid, consistent environment and a manager who knows the club from top to bottom. Ferguson is conscious of exactly what it takes to develop a young player with Barkley’s rare talents after 25 years in the Old Trafford dugout and will take the necessary steps to ensure he fulfills his promise. There are always calls from fans who think it’s imperative hot prospects like Barkley need first team games to gain the imperative experience that will transform them into world beaters.

Unfortunately for a player of his tender years being forced to play too much could result in burnout and injuries, which could then seriously hamper his development. Ferguson isn’t that naïve and Barkley will benefit massively from an approach that will see him given time to develop on the training field before he becomes regularly active in the first team. Just look at Ronaldo and Rooney who were bought when they were at a similar age to the midfielder. The Scot moulded them into world-class players with the former now the best and expensive player in the world after his £80 million move to Real Madrid.

There’s no guarantee that Barkley will reach the same level as the Portuguese winger or that of Rooney but from his early displays at Everton there is cause to say he could should he be given the right platform to flourish. Manchester United have a proven track record of giving young players a stage on which they can mature and prosper as footballers. A move to Chelsea certainly wouldn’t be the worst thing Barkley could do and ultimately the choice will come down to him should both sides solidify their interest. Where he decides to move will determine the direction his career goes. Red or blue?

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