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Everton's superb season was capped off with international recognition for some of their star players, with Leighton Baines and Ross Barkley named in Roy Hodgson's England squad for the World Cup in Brazil this summer, whilst defender John Stones is on the standby list. Midfielder Barkley has had a remarkable ascent this season, and Toffees boss Roberto Martinez, has praised the 20-year-old for his hard work.
“As you can imagine, the whole family of Evertonians are delighted,” Martinez said. “We all know that Ross Barkley is quite a unique talent and it is pleasing to see that he has been rewarded by his call-up to the national side. But more significant is that he will have the opportunity to enjoy the World Cup.
“Ross will get the chance to lead our young talent at the Club and he is a clear example of what can be achieved by working hard at your game and enjoying football with Everton," the Spaniard added.
The development of Stones and Barkley under Martinez has been key to their success this season, and whilst there have been admiring glances from other clubs over the possibility of prising the former Wigan boss away from Merseyside, Everton president Sir Phillip Carter has moved to laud Martinez for his work at the club so far - in the hope that he will keep it up for the foreseeable future.
"I remember when I went up to Finch Farm to see him and have a chat and almost everybody said ‘what a fantastic man’. I thought to myself ‘he only came through the door this morning,’ he said. “There was a marvellous atmosphere which has now carried on right the way through. It’s not an easy job and it will take some time. But we have an organisation to help Roberto build it, but I don’t have any doubts that he will take us along the right path," he added.
Martinez has begun planning for next season, where he will be hoping to take his Everton side one step further and gain Champions League qualification with a top four finish having fallen just short this year. In order to do that, Everton will need to strengthen their squad and are reportedly eyeing up a move for Anderlecht defender Cheikhou Kouyate, who has been strongly linked with a move to Arsenal throughout this season after an impressive campaign in Belgium.