Ross Barkley may have had only a handful of Everton appearances prior to this season, and yet from those brief but electrifying cameos it was clear he was a special talent.
That he has started all the Toffees’ league games thus far suggests his days on the periphery are over, and that despite not yet reaching his 20s, he is on the verge of greatness with a club that prides itself on the development of youth.
Given Barkley’s career trajectory and his maturity on the field, you may think he did not require the advice of other players. But that is not so, as he has revealed a word or two in his ear from an unlikely source.
Speaking to the Liverpool Daily Post, Barkley said that Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard had offered some wisdom during the recent international break, during which the teenager earned his first England call-up.
“He was good to me when I was away,” Barkley said of his domestic rival. “I sat next to him on the coach and he gave me loads of advice.”
“He said that the big-hitters are going to be looking at me and linked with me, but that the main thing is I stay with the club I’m at, the team I support and the team I love, which is Everton.”
There is no denying it is good advice, a life-plan already played out by Gerrard himself. But if Barkley becomes the player he seems destined to, will the Liverpool fans who adore their captain wish he had not been quite so honest with a player in the same mould?
Many teenagers are fleeting sensations, only the best of them becoming regulars and ultimately legends. But Barkley appears to belong to that special minority. And in the years to come, if he can inspire the Toffees to better their fierce rivals – both on match-days and over entire seasons – that advice from Gerrard could start to sting.
It is all speculation of course. But I would not be surprised if Gerrard saw something of himself in the young Everton man. And as noble as it is to advise someone to follow their heart, Barkley could ultimately haunt the next generation of Liverpool players, just as Gerrard has in his many meetings with the Toffees.
Could Barkley prove as influential for Everton as Gerrard has for Liverpool?
image: © Jon Candy