Battle of the wonderkids: Bentaleb v Barkley; whose star will shine brightest?

WH Lane

Tottenham Hotspur take on Everton in an intriguing tussle between two top four hopefuls at the Lane on Sunday… will one prospect out-perform the other?

One has been described as Paul Gascoigne meets Michael Ballack while another has been hyped as a Xavi incarnate… yes, when it comes to hyping prospects, those in the football industry in England know how to do it best.

Everton wonderkid Ross Barkley, 20, has long attracted high praise yet it was his majestic showing versus Arsenal earlier in the season that really hogged the headlines. Toffees boss Roberto Martinez lauded his mentality and application, while also marveling at the maturity of his technical ability and said at the time, as quoted by The Independent: 'I’ve got great admiration for Ross, he’s got great potential.'

He continued: 'In Ross we have someone, if we look after him properly, can give us something unique.'

Commenting on the comparisons to Gascoigne and Ballack (originated by Gary Lineker on Twitter,) Martinez agreed: 'I see bits of Ballack and bits of Gazza. He has incredible balance with both feet, really strong, really powerful.

'He is someone you can compare to any other nation, and I mean the young Brazilians, Dutch, Spanish players. He has a gift and that talented.'

While Barkley's break-out was versus the Gunners, at the Emirates Stadium, in a match where he played an assist's assist when he fed Bryan Oviedo a pass out wide who then duly crossed for Gerard Deulofeu's vital equalising goal, Tottenham Hotspur starlet Nabil Bentaleb's was arguably against Crystal Palace, admittedly slightly less glamorous opposition but the 19-year-old made an astonishing 106 passes - on his full 90 minute debut, no less.

The Daily Mail ran a headline on a Jamie Redknapp column lauding him as a future Xavi of the Premier League as the Spaniard, on the same day, attempted 112 passes.

NameTeamTouch /GamePass/ GameAcc PassFwd PassFinal 3rd PassChanceAssist's assistAppsMins
Ross Barkley Everton 58.86 40.67 34.67 10.24 15.67 21 1 21 1,602
Nabil Bentaleb Spurs 58.71 49.00 43.29 12.29 13.14 2 0 7 453

While Barkley has competed in almost four times as many Premier League minutes thus far this season than Bentaleb, they have a similar amount of touches of the football per game, on average. The French teenager is a far more accomplished passer of the football, attempting an average of 49 every match and is accurate with 88% of them, compared to the Englishman's 40 a match and an 85% accuracy.

Furthermore, Bentaleb attempts more passes in the forward direction, yet fewer in the opponent's third. Barkley also is a far more prolific chance creator - 21 - has an assist's assist and has scored three goals to date. Bentaleb has returned just two chances and is yet to assist or score.

With both likely to feature in the upcoming Spurs versus Everton match at White Hart Lane on Sunday, February 9, there is debate to be had over whom will make the greatest impression - whether Bentaleb can dominate a midfield with his composure and appreciation of the pass, or if Barkley will be able to put his stamp on the match with his directness.

image: © OliverN5

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