The 42-year-old Everton coach and former player hailed Toffees youngster Ross Barkley as the hungriest player he has seen since Wayne Rooney. The England No.10 moved from Goodison Park to Old Trafford to join Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United a decade ago in 2004 but Alan Stubbs believes his young compatriot is equally as unique as a prospect.
“He had a hunger I’ve only seen before in Wayne Rooney. He wanted to be the first on to the pitch, practicing all the time. He just loves football,” said Stubbs, currently working under Roberto Martinez at Goodison.
Stubbs has held his position as first-team coach for the past six years, for the majority of that time working under recently sacked United boss David Moyes.
Moyes had brought Rooney through the youth ranks on Merseyside and Stubbs played a key role in developing the star who is now the highest paid player at Manchester United.
Rooney cost the Red Devils £25.6m in 2004 but the soon-to-be disposed Premier League champions are currently heavily linked with interest in acquiring Ross Barkley. Despite David Moyes’ departure from Old Trafford, rumours persist that the club are hopeful of luring the 20-year-old England starlet to the Theatre of Dreams this summer.
Local boy Barkley has been at the club since the tender age of 12 and Stubbs is eager for the club to keep their star youngster this time around and keep him out of the clutches of the Premier League’s elite who are, according to reports, keeping more than just a keen eye trained on the Blues’ young attacking midfielder.
“We’ve now got players in abundance who can kick us on to the next level. It’s important now as a club that we start to keep these players, rather than sell one or two every now and then. Barkley is the future,” he added.
Barkley has already been the subject of a £50m bid from Manchester United and a £38m offer from Merseyside rivals Liverpool according to manager Roberto Martinez – although the Spaniard may well have been poking fun at the press on this occasion.
"In terms of speculation, we already turned down a £50m bid from United so we're not going to take £38m from Liverpool," Martinez said back in April.
"It's quite enjoyable to speak about speculation because it shows how well our players are doing. That's the type of football compliments we want."
However, the Blues were powerless to stop the Red Devils luring their star player from last season to Old Trafford in the form of Marouane Fellaini, a deal which, by all accounts, was more favourable to Everton but their strong stance on Leighton Baines who had also been a target would suggest they have the upper hand over Manchester United at present.