Whilst trying to obtain other peoples opinions on Barkley, I decided to speak to an Everton supporting colleague of mine, who, quite simply, said that “he has all the attributes to become a more complete player than any other Everton academy graduate – including Wayne Rooney.”
Big praise indeed, and whilst the comment should be taken with a pinch of salt – especially when considering the bitterness which some Everton fans still feel towards Rooney, thus clouding the judgment slightly – I must say that of the several occasions that I have been able to watch Barkley in action, I have been particularly impressed by the understanding of the game in which this 17-year-old – not 18 until December – has shown.
In recent years, there have been many labels attached to players, which, quite frankly, are overused, and inflated, phrases. One of these happens to be the term ‘outstanding young player’, e.g “that lad looks like an outstanding young player.” So, what exactly qualifies a young player as an outstanding talent? Does a central midfielder who possesses strength, quick feet, undying stamina, and the ability to pick out passes fit into this class of player?
These qualities, all of which, under the right coaching, will only improve over time, have led to rave reviews of Barkley. His club manager, David Moyes, said during the summer: “I think Evertonians have not got an awful lot to be excited about at the moment, so Ross gives everybody something to look at and cling on to.”
Rio Ferdinand, during an open letter supporting England’s failed 2018 World Cup bid, at which time, Barkley was still just 16, name checked the Everton youngster, amongst others, as part of the next generation of English players: “We’ve got some talented youngsters, the likes of Josh McEachran, Ross Barkley, Ezekial Fryers, and John Bostock.”
Barkley, made his debut for England’s Under-17 team against Kazakhstan in October 2009, and went on to play a prominent role in England’s triumphant 2010 European Championship side in Liechenstein, May 2010. During the tournament, Barkley scored one goal – the only goal of the game in a group-stage victory over Greece – and during the 2-1 victory over the Spanish in the final, he played the full match to mark England’s only ever European Under-17 Championship victory.
One of the main problems with many potentially brilliant young players in the modern day is that they lack the determination, and dedication, to make the sacrifices that will ultimately help them gain an advantage over their rivals. Things such as nights out have to be relinquished in order for these young players to give themselves the best possible chance of having long and successful careers in football.
Barkley, is certainly a player who is willing to persevere, after coming back from a triple leg break which he suffered during an England under-19 match, after colliding with team-mate, Andre Wisodom.
The injury couldn’t have come at a worst possible time for Barkley, who, at sixteen, had been on Everton’s bench for the previous three games, and many felt, was about to be given a chance. Instead of crumbling, though, Barkley showed his character and after nine months of rehabilitation, returned to action, and impressed in Everton’s recent pre-season tour. So much so, infact, that after one game, Phil Neville, who during his career has played with, and against, some of the world greats, took to his twitter account to single out Barkley for special praise: “I think we all know we have got something special there. We just all want him to keep going out there and enjoying his football.”
Recently, Chelsea, Manchester United and City, amongst anyone else boasting a sizeable transfer budget, have been linked with bids for the precociously talented teenager. However, David Moyes, after losing Wayne Rooney while he was still a teenager, will want to make sure that, if he is to be sold, it will be for a substantial amount of money – possibly more than Rooney was sold for – and that he were sold to a club who would help nurture and give the player a platform to flourish on.
As for now, though, Barkley must be happy just to be playing football again. And one thing seems certain when it comes to this young man: he is going to keep playing football for a long time yet.
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