Although the Champions League dream has died, Everton fans will still be delighted with Roberto Martinez’s debut campaign on Merseyside. While some feared the Toffees may have suffered with the exit of long-serving David Moyes, the club have excelled and secured fifth place in the Premier League.
Through a combination of astute acquisitions and the progression of young talent, Martinez has moulded a promising attacking side that already reflects his own managerial philosophy. After such a successful season, it is inevitable that the media have linked a number of Everton’s key performers with big money moves in the summer. Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman, as well as emerging starlets Ross Barkley and John Stones, are all rumoured to be interesting some of the division’s elite.
Despite these media links, it surely is a little premature for the two English youngsters to genuinely consider leaving Goodison Park.
Granted, there is a feeling that Everton will struggle to replicate their achievements next season. Martinez needs to keep the vultures circling his squad at bay whilst attempting to replace their impressive loan stars. At the same time, Manchester United and Tottenham will surely strengthen significantly in the summer in order to close the gap that has emerged to the Toffees.
But for Barkley and Stones, both of whom are at a crucial stage of their footballing development, there is no better place to continue their progression than under Martinez’s tutelage at Goodison. The Spaniard has managed their integration into the first team perfectly and will continue to afford them the opportunities to grow in a system which evidently suits both starlets.
Speaking about both players as well as Coleman, Martinez described the development of the youngsters as the “biggest success story” of Everton’s season. With a manager that clearly believes so strongly in the pair, why should Barkley and Stones consider continuing their immediate footballing development anywhere else?
It is a similar situation to the rumours that have been circulating Southampton’s eighteen year old Luke Shaw following the Saints’ impressive form in the current campaign. Having enjoyed a breakout season, Barkley has been linked to pretty much every leading Premier League side, including a speculative £38 million move to rivals Liverpool. Stones has filled in admirably in the latter stages of the campaign and a fee of £20 million has been mooted, with Chelsea and Arsenal reported to be keen on the former Barnsley defender.
Martinez addressed these growing rumours recently by stating “we do not have to sell.” But with such exorbitant sums being discussed, surely there is always the chance that Everton could be persuaded to cash in on one or both of these starlets?
Whilst Wayne Rooney managed to make a success of his move from Goodison at a young age, the transfer of Jack Rodwell should serve as a warning to the current Evertonian pair of the dangers of moving too soon. Still at Manchester City, Rodwell’s promising development has stalled considerably at the Etihad since moving in 2012.
Money and the lure of Champions League football is a tempting proposition for any footballer. But it should not be forgotten that both Barkley and Stones, despite all of the acclaim, are still incredibly raw young talents. Martinez rested Barkley for a period earlier in the year after a slump in form, whilst Stones has only really broken into the first team fold in the last few months. Both starlets, for their respective footballing developments, require at least another season under their current manager in the safer environment that Goodison Park affords them
With some England fans desperately championing for the youngsters’ to make it into Roy Hodgson’s World Cup squad, the Everton manager’s comments on the matter aired caution in the face of these mounting expectations. Whilst stating that he would be pleased if either get selected, the Spaniard stressed the need for both to be looked after and managed carefully in the international set-up.
It must be said that there have been no suggestions that either Barkley or Stones have had their heads turned by the rumours. But with the starlets’ current trajectory, it is almost inevitable that the pair will eventually look to move on to bigger and better things.
The time for that though is not this summer.