Former England international Chris Waddle believes Ross Barkley has the potential to develop into a key player at both club and international level.
The Everton midfielder struggled for consistency last season as the Toffees laboured to a disappointing mid-table finish in the Premier League but he remains a regular in Roy Hodgson’s England squads.
Hodgson chose to include Barkley in his latest squad despite the European under-21 Championships taking place this summer, a competition which the 21-year-old qualifies for.
It shows a great deal of faith has been put into Barkley’s development as an international footballer and now is the time for him to start showing why he is such a highly-rated young talent.
Barkley scored and assisted just two goals for Everton in 2014-15, a return which is not good enough for a player who is usually the main support for lone striker Romelu Lukaku. He must significantly improve on those numbers in order to fulfil his potential.
Despite his disappointing return last season, Waddle believes Barkley still has the ability to become a ‘world-class’ footballer but he must be given time to develop.
He told Everton’s official website, “With Ross Barkley, I’m sure the people he has got around him will be talking to him and saying the right things. It will get harder because when you first come on the scene, nobody really knows a great deal about you - not even the media. All of a sudden you put a little run together in whatever position you are and people take notice.
“Barkley is a very talented footballer but he needs time. This year he has had his highs and lows, like Everton have had. One week they were playing great, the next not so well; so he is still learning his trade.
“With Ross we need to just let him develop, let him play his football and when you play and play and play, then you get consistency. That’s the key to Ross Barkley becoming a top player.
“He has been linked to be being the new Gazza – he doesn’t need these things on his shoulders. Just let the lad go and develop. If he turns out to be as good as Gazza - which will be very difficult, I have got to say - then we will have a world-class player on our hands. At the minute we have just got a potentially world-class player.”
Waddle also commented on Barkley’s best position, stating that he needs to be played as central and as far forward as possible to get the best out of his creative talents.
He continued, “What I like about Barkley is his vision, the fact he is two-footed, he’s got a trick up his sleeve and he has a good change of pace. He looks after the ball well and has good technique. That’s key – good technique is very hard to find in English players. He has wonderful balance as well.
“If you look at the formation Everton use, you have got Romelu Lukaku as the lone striker and for me I would put Ross in behind him and say he is the number 10. If I was picking Ross Barkley I wouldn’t play him as a defensive player. I would want him in the opposition’s half as much as possible - creating, shooting and making things happen.”