Roberto Martinez may have made four signings as Everton manager but one area the new boss has not added is midfield. That could be due to the continued presence of Marouane Fellaini but another contributory factor might be the potential the Spaniard sees in Ross Barkley.
The 19-year-old has featured regularly in pre-season, often playing behind a lone striker, having featured sporadically under David Moyes last season. And Martinez has liked what he has seen so far, telling the
“He’s still a young man, and he needs to learn the players around him. But I’m excited to have that process with him. He has got an incredible talent. You look at young players like Gerard Deulofeu and Ross Barkley – they are at that level. I am really pleased with his attitude, the way he listens and wants to learn. And when he is in full flow, he can be something special.”
Martinez added that he has been particularly impressed by Barkley’s movement and finishing ability, suggesting that when the teenager does play it will be in support of a centre-forward, rather than on the wing or the centre of midfield as he usually did under Moyes.
Barkley’s appearances under Moyes were infrequent and when he did play, his performances were as mixed as should be expected for a teenager. He shone against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium towards the end of last season and has usually offered a glimpse of his talent every time he has featured, with cross-field passes a specialty.
Those brief sightings led to regular complaints that he didn’t feature more often under Moyes, particularly if the team was struggling for creativity. Barkley’s really was a case of absence making the heart grow fonder. But Moyes was forever a cautious manager, both tactically and in terms of the development of young players, reluctant to throw a youngster into the deep end when they weren’t ready to swim.
Moyes took it slow with Barkley and left before reaping the rewards, but Barkley’s budding excellence was well recognised among the former management, not to mention the players. Tim Cahill told a fans’ website in June 2011 that Barkley is the most talented player he had ever seen. Six months later Barkley was signed to a new four-year contract and described by former Everton, Arsenal and England defender Martin Keown as “one of the best players we’ll ever see in this country.”
Barkley had only just turned 18 at that point but already recovered from breaking his leg in three places in October 2010. To come back from such a horrific injury – sustained when he was only 16 – speaks to the local-born starlet’s resilience, something that will stand him in good stead if this is the season he experiences a full year of first team football. According to Martinez, Barkley’s talent isn’t in doubt either.
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