Former player and current top TV pundit Martin Keown once said of Ross Barkley ‘he will be one of the best players we’ll ever see in this country’. I’m now beginning to understand why Keown spoke in such glowing, albeit outlandish, terms about a young player who has the world at his feet.
We all remember how Wayne Rooney burst onto the scene as an Everton teenage sensation – and how he went on to become one of England’s finest – and I’ve already seen enough of Barkley to predict that he too will project himself to international stardom.
It is easy to get carried away when you see a young, raw talent make such an impact at a tender age and we have to be careful not to go over the top about a player still to make a telling mark on the Premier League stage. But, believe me, this kid is special.
Remember George Best coming across the sea from Ireland and mesmerising with his magic; think of Robbie Fowler and how he took the art of goal scoring to another level; cherish the memories of the man we know as Gazza taking the football world by storm as a precocious teenager.
Ross Barkley has the ability, and by all accounts the temperament and savvy, to follow in the footsteps of those footballing icons just mentioned and I can’t wait to see how he develops under new Everton boss Roberto Martinez who is already a massive fan.
We’ve seen glimpses of Barkley’s talent in the early stages of his career, initially in the Everton first team, and latterly on loan at Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds, and he was one of a number of shining lights in the England Under 21s’ demolition of Scotland last week.
I was fortunate to be at Carrow Road on Saturday to see Barkley start and then star in Everton’s 2-2 draw with Norwich, and it wasn't just the stunning goal he scored that was to be admired. It was the way he took control of the game and physically stated ‘I’m the man’.New boss Martinez could not hide his delight and admiration for a boy who could be king. “I’m sure many people will be speaking about the quality of Barkley’s goal, but we see that every day in training,” gushed the Spaniard.
“Tactically and technically he was superb. He was perfect on the day. But what I love most about him is the fact that he is prepared to listen and learn, and for a player blessed with his ability that is an incredible asset to have.”
Barkley’s teammates agree with their manager’s assessment of a player he also describes as a ‘true diamond’ and seasoned campaigner Phil Jagielka, who has played alongside some of the best in the business, reckons the 19-year-old can be the jewel in Everton’s crown.
“He is thinking more like a professional footballer now instead of a kid just having a good time. He is also a fantastic lad,” said Jagielka. “He is always trying and out there practicing and if he keeps going in the right direction, hopefully we will have quite a player.”
The phrase ‘quite a player’ is a fairly modest assessment and projection. What we have on our hands is ‘one hell of a player’ in the making, and I can’t wait to see more of a midfield magician who could well have us dancing to a samba beat in Rio next summer.
As football commentator Clive Tyldesley once famously said of a certain Wayne Rooney when the former Everton striker announced his arrival on the Premier League scene with a wonder goal against Arsenal.’remember the name’.
The name on this occasion is Ross Barkley. Make a note.