Collecting the ball just outside the area, he fooled the oncoming defender with a dip of his shoulder, a clever switch of the ball at his feet before steadying himself and unleashing a stunning powerful drive past John Ruddy. This was how Ross Barkley chose to introduced himself in style to the fans at the start of last season during Everton’s opening day win over Norwich and the 20 year old England midfielder continued to impress for the rest of the campaign. In his breakthrough season under new boss Roberto Martinez, Barkley was one of Everton’s most consistent top performers which earned him a spot in Roy Hodgson’s England team that travelled to Brazil for the World Cup. Despite a dismal tournament for the three lions, Barkley’s growing reputation remained intact and interest in the player increased week over week.
Manchester City are the latest team to express an interest and are rumoured to be preparing a bid whilst Arsenal and Manchester United are also monitoring the situation. With pressure mounting from UEFA and the English FA to encourage the development of home grown players including proposals to change squad requirements to include a higher set number of domestic players in each team, talented kids like Barkley are high in demand. However whilst the rules are not formalised yet, moving to a larger club like Manchester City in a multi million pound deal doesnt neceasarily guarentee first team action.
There are enough examples of young English players moving to City in recent years and struggling to get on the pitch. Adam Johnson, Jolean Lescott and Jack Rodwell have all moved in bumper deals but found playing time limited by an all star foreign cast ahead of them. Micah Richards, who came through City’s youth ranks is looking for an exit route after failing to displace Pablo Zabaleta at right back and finally there is James Milner who operates much more from the bench nowadays than as a starter. Without playing time their international careers have all slowed in their pace. Out of the four of them, only Milner remains part of the England setup, with Johnson only recently being considered after he left City for a starting spot at Sunderland. With England needing a fresh new look, they need Barkley to continue to develop and grow as a player, not to go stale by sitting on a golden bench especially now given Steven Gerrards recent announcement that he is retiring from international football. Compared to Paul Gascoigne, Barkley is the future of England’s midfield alongside either Jack Wilshere or perhaps Jack Rodwell if he can find regular first team football. He is a unique talent, and according to former teammate Tim Cahill “one of the most technically gifted players he has ever played with. Barkley has an exciting career ahead of him but must make the right decisions now to protect his long term future – stay at Everton as a key piece of Roberto Martinez’s team or move to City as a bit part player under Pellegrini.
At 20 years old, Barkley has time on his shoulders so delaying a move to one of the larger teams in Europe would not necessarily have a negative effect on it. Remaining at Everton and continuing his development under Martinez is the sensible thing for him to do but unfortunately money talks and it can sway the mind of a young player into making the wrong decision. Hopefully Barkley can remain level headed and resist the temptation to move for a quick pay day, instead staying at Everton for the right reasons – for footballing reasons.