A resurgence in form and fitness for Chelsea under the tutelage of Maurizio Sarri forced Gareth Southgate to include the ex-Everton man Ross Barkley in his squad for the latest round League of Nations matches.
He starred for England in their 3-2 victory over Spain and came off the bench to secure Chelsea a point against Manchester United last weekend.
Barkley’s stock had fallen to such a degree that he was not considered for the 2018 World Cup squad, with England crying out for a central midfielder with the power and guile that he possesses.
Barkley joined Everton aged 11 and spent 13 years at The Toffees. Early promise led to teammate Tim Cahill heralding Barkley as “the most talented footballer” he had worked with. Former England centre-back turned pundit, Martin Keown, said in 2011 that “[Barkley will be] one of the best players we will see in this country.”
He had loan spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United before forcing his way into the Everton first team at the start of the 2013-14 season. A debut goal on the first day of the season sparked further praise from ex-players and pundits with Alan Hansen saying Barkley had “absolutely everything” and Gary Lineker describing him as a “prodigious talent”.
Everyone was expecting Barkley to continue to develop at Everton and get a big money move to one of the top four clubs sooner rather than later. But injury and a dip in form meant that he stagnated.
Barkley often flattered to deceive in his time at Everton. His excellent first touch, ability to glide past players effortlessly and shoot with power from distance meant that at his best he was compared to Rooney or Gascoigne. But his inconsistency and fragility at Everton meant that he was more used to time on the treatment table or on the bench than winning games for his boyhood club.
Like Jack Wilshere, Barkley was a player that everyone seemed to agree was great, despite often not playing that well or changing the course of the matches he was involved in.
The Big Move
The big move did eventually materialise. But instead of the goalscoring, midfield powerhouse that Barkley had threatened to be in his early Everton career, Chelsea signed a world-weary, injury-prone 24-year-old for a cut-price of £15 million.
Having signed for Chelsea in January, Barkley was used sparingly by Antonio Conté, with appearances confined to cup competitions and the odd substitute appearance. Like Drinkwater and Loftus-Cheek, it looked like Chelsea had another English midfield benchwarmer.
However, a fine pre-season and the backing of incumbent manager Maurizio Sarri has sparked the Barkley comeback. Barkley says that the stringent training regime at Chelsea is like nothing he’s experienced before. He feels fitter than he ever has. Which begs the question, what were they doing at Everton?
Straight talking Sarri has said there is a lot of room for improvement in Barkley’s game. His physicality and ability to travel with the ball has always been apparent, but his tactical nouse and in game decision making (when to dribble, pass or shoot) are areas Sarri feels he can work on.
The fight for a starting spot