Everton youngster Ross Barkley enjoyed a terrific campaign last season and became an instrumental part of the side that narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification. Dubbed as England’s next big thing, there was plenty of hype surrounding the 21-year-old after some assured displays where he was a potent attacking threat scoring some brilliant goals. He looked destined for a very bright future.
Fast forward a year and things aren’t going quite as well for the England midfielder, who along with his team has struggled for form this season. Having failed to hold down a regular starting place in Roberto Martinez’s starting XI, he has scored just twice in 28 appearances. The Toffees have endured an extremely disappointing league campaign and find themselves down in 13th position, closer to the bottom three than the top four.
But despite a lacklustre season at Goodison Park, Barkley continues to be linked with a move away from Merseyside with reports connecting him to both Chelsea and Manchester City in a deal that could be worth a staggering £50million.
How much substance there is to these reports remains to be seen, but you feel if a sizeable bid of this sort of value came in during the summer both the club and player would find it hard to resist.
Yet despite the obvious attraction of a potential move to one of the giants of Premier League football with the prospect of league titles and Champions League football, at this stage in his career Barkley would be making a big mistake.
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At just 21, he still has plenty to do in order to develop into the world class talent that he could become one day. And at this moment in time he has at the best club possible in order to achieve this.
He just needs to look at the numerous examples of players that have shown bags of potential before moves to the likes Chelsea and Manchester City, where they then found their career going backwards as they sat on the bench week in week out. Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Scott Sinclair, Jack Rodwell…the list goes on.
It’s hard to see Barkley being able to force himself into the starting 11 of Chelsea or City for next season, and so when he could be playing regular for his current side, he would be watching from the sidelines at a crucial point in his career.
For now he should ignore any speculation of interest from elsewhere, as hard as it may be. Most importantly he needs to rediscover the form and confidence that he displayed in abundance last season and keep his head down and continue to work hard and improve at a club that will give him the opportunity to do so.
Providing he can do this, there’s no doubt he will get his move to one of the league’s top clubs. But he has to do this when the time is right and he’s performing on a consistent basis.
Quotes from the man himself this week have revealed Barkley feels his best position is as a striker, despite playing the majority of his career in an attacking midfield role. The youngster feels this is where he can have his greatest impact with the freedom to roam around, take players on, have shots and create chances. And having seen Barkley excel in these areas last season you can certainly see where he is coming from.
In light of these quotes, Martinez now has the perfect opportunity to help him realise Everton is where he needs to be to spend the next few seasons playing football. The Spaniard should give Barkley the role in the side he is craving and give him the opportunity to form a partnership with Lukaku in attack. The manager should build his side around the promising duo, giving Barkley the freedom to do what he does best and hopefully this well help Everton challenge for European qualification once again next season.
By showing faith in Barkley in this way, it would surely help restore his confidence that has clearly been lacking at times this season, and we would then see the best of him on a weekly basis. Playing for his boyhood club in his favourite position regularly would certainly make him happy and allow for the necessary development and experience that he needs to reach the highest level.
However tempting it may be to move on, Barkley has to stay at Everton for at least another season and probably more. It’s the best thing for him in the long run and would be most beneficial to him and his football. Were he to complete a transfer in the coming months, he is in real danger of damaging his career before it has really got going.