Who are we talking about? Everton player Ross Barkley of course, who when bursting on the scene, was hailed as the next world class English midfielder – but is now seeing his career come to a bit of a stagnation point, with transfer speculation off the field dominating the headlines, not what he does on it.
Of course, you have to question if Barkley actually does have the potential to be one of the best in the world, or if he is actually worth such a huge amount of cash at all, and the danger of putting the player on a pedestal just because he is English and displays a fleck of talent is a very real one.
Former Barcelona turned Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola knows a thing or two about top class midfielders having seen both Xavi and Andres Iniesta come through La Masia, and has made the point more than once that for an English player to be considered a top draw midfielder, they only have to show a modicum of creative talent, and used Jack Wilshere as his prime example. Looking at the direction of Wilshere’s career now, or the lack there of it, you would be hard pressed to disagree.
Being English and hyped up by both the press and the fans is something many have fallen prey to – and it is not just restricted to midfielders. Being English is more of a curse than a blessing at times, with the national obsession of building someone up only to revel in the glee of knocking them down, and Barkley has to be careful not to become the next bright young thing that happens to.
Off the field at least there does not seem to be any danger of that being the case with Barkley refusing to court the tabloids, seemingly happy to associate with women of his own age who do not bill him by the hour and someone who seems to live a clean life without smoking or drinking in excess.
It is on the field where he needs to show some real development in his career and make sure that he does not just remain a very good player – from what we have seen, he had the ability to be a game changer and has certainly shown that he can offer more than a couple of sideways and back passes a la Gareth Barry on a good day, but his penchant for a defence splitting pass or a goal has to be seen more often.
The breed of a Frank Lampard goalscoring midfielder is dying out somewhat, and it is now almost impossible to name a central midfielder who can get 20 goals in a season time and time again – finding a forward to do so is hard enough – and is worth remembering that Barkley is only 21 years old and manages to find the net a few times a season.
Neither Lampard nor Gerrard found their shooting boots until a few years later in their career, so in terms of goals, Barkley has plenty of time yet. His creative side is shown in flashes and his ability to impose himself on a game is getting better as his career goes on. For a player only broke into the Everton first team last season, there is no denying Barkley has done well to get this far, but to avoid becoming a very good player, he has to go one better.
Resting on his laurels and basking in the praise he has already received would be easy – and it would not be the first time that has happened to an up and coming player, but it would be that and not staying at Everton which would see his career go backwards.
Everton fans. Do you think that Ross Barkley can become a world class player or will he just be a decent midfielder? Let us know your thoughts below, become a guest blogger or tweet us @LaFootyettes.