Since breaking into the Everton senior side two years ago, there has been little doubt that Ross Barkley would be an important player at Goodison Park in the future if he spent enough time on the pitch. However the persistent worries about his injury record are yet to go away, and any hope of a big season from the midfielder must be tempered by fears he will pick up another knock.
But if fit, can Barkley expect to be a first team regular under Roberto Martinez next year? After encouraging spells on loan in the Championship last season, especially at Sheffield Wednesday, Barkley returned to pre-season recently and was excellent in Everton’s 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers, earning rave reviews from his new manager.
“Ross is something special,” said Martinez. “In football when you describe a player, there are not many better descriptions than to say he's an incredible football diamond.
“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.”
Martinez has indicated he is happy to play young players if he considers them ready for the first team, with Barcelona’s 19-year-old forward Gerard Deulofeu recently arriving on loan and expected to make an impact on the senior side next season.
Whether he starts regularly will naturally be affected by what formation Martinez favours, with Barkley most comfortable playing in an attacking midfield position that will likely be used if the Spanish manager decides to play with only one central striker.
Providing he stays fit, there is little doubt that Barkley will be able to have an important impact on Everton’s season, but it is perhaps too much to ask of him to be a regular starter from the start of the year.
image: © Gene Hunt