New kid on the block - Everton's Ross Barkley
There are some players who simply set the pulse racing. Players who, when they come on the ball, just seem to make things happen. These are players whom the fans love. They are terrace heroes who define the clubs they play for. Players like Eric Cantona, Wayne Rooney, Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and many others come in this category. The newest addition to such an august group could be the young Everton prodigy – Ross Barkley.
Of course, the Evertonian has not done nearly enough to be counted in the same breath as the legends mentioned above, but the signs are certainly there. A Scouse like Rooney, Barkley’s game is pretty similar to the Manchester United talisman.
Both of them are confident, powerful, intelligent footballers and most importantly have the ability to produce moments of pure brilliance. Rooney made his name with a wonder goal against Arsenal, and Barkley’s curling long range shot in the loss to Manchester City shows that maybe his moment too has arrived.
Barkley’s finish against the Blues of Manchester was one any player would be proud of. The audacity to even attempt such a shot with his first touch is not something mere mortals can aspire to do. And the technique employed showed that this is not going to be a one-off.
But there is much more to Barkley’s game than goals. He is a powerful runner and the runs he made against Manchester City were reminiscent of Micheal Ballack at his finest. Particularly one in the second half where he carried the ball from behind the mid-way line to just outside City’s box to set up Naismith with a brilliant through ball, was a treat to watch. His fearlessness on the ball is a joy to watch as he picks it up and runs with pace and intent at the opposition defence.
He has completed 70 take-ons this season. That’s an average of 3.02 per 90 minutes. To put that statistic into perspective, Hazard has completed 122, which is the most in the league. Per 90 minutes, Hazard averages 3.98. Hazard is the Young Player of the Season and a magician with a ball at his feet, so keeping in touch with him is no mean feat.
Barkley is not your run of the mill midfielder. He has pace, guile, drive and vision. In a young attacking team, filled with players like Aiden McGeady, Gerard Deulofeu and Kevin Mirallas, Barkley is the heartbeat of Goodison Park and Everton. He has heart and it shows in his defensive work. His work rate is extraordinary and he knows how to tackle. He is a leader on the field and like all the best leaders, looks to lead by example.
England too need a man like Barkley in Brazil. He may not be ready yet to be a regular starter, but having an option like him on the bench is not a bad thought for English fans. A midfielder with strength, control, pace and dynamite in both boots cannot be someone who should be overlooked.
Of course, a lot of credit for his development has to go to Roberto Martinez, who has instilled in the 20-year-old a tactical sense that is very acute. Against teams like Arsenal and Manchester City, Barkley managed to fit perfectly in a traditionally deeper role and brought back memories of Steven Gerrard at his youthful best plundering from one box to another.
A potent mix of heart, pace, power, technique and tactical sense, Barkley has all the ingredients to go on and be one of the all time greats. Whether or not he achieves his destiny is another thing. But for now, I simply feel happy to see a player who can set the pulse racing.