PFA Men's Young Player of the Year nominee: Ross Barkley (Everton FC).
When a respected student of the game describes a young player as a combination of Paul Gascoigne and Michael Ballack, you know you have a special talent on your hands.
Thoughtful Everton boss Roberto Martinez is not prone to over-exaggeration but when he talks about 20-year-old Ross Barkley, the Spaniard doesn’t hold back.
“I know that Ross will be a phenomenal player for England”, was Martinez’s opening gambit before adding, “he is ready to help the national team and nothing will faze him”.
After loan spells with Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds, Barkley returned to parent club Everton at the start of the season – scoring a wonder goal at Norwich on the opening day.
It was his first goal for the club and he’s added a few more since, perhaps none better than a stunning, solo goal in the recent 3-0 Premier League win at Newcastle.
Having represented England at all levels from Under 16, Barkley now has three full caps to his name having made his international debut against Moldova last September.
An all-action midfielder with a subtlety of touch, Barkley’s eye for goal has raised his profile still further and many are touting him as a ‘must pick’ for Roy Hodgson this summer.
He would certainly add a new and exciting dimension to the England midfield, just as a certain Paul Gascoigne did for Bobby Robson’s side prior to the 1990 World Cup finals.
Gazza, of course, shone brightly on the biggest stage of all and Everton manager Martinez believes he has seen enough of his own prodigious young talent to predict a repeat of history.
“He has such a variety of strengths”, explains Martinez. “He can do things only top players can do. I don’t think he has a like-for-like as a footballer.
Sometimes he does things that remind you of Michael Ballack; at times it’s Paul Gascoigne. Technically, he is as gifted as you are going to see. But what shocks you is the physicality that goes with it.
On top of that is the character. Nothing distracts him from his role. He is a really down to earth, modern footballer. All he wants to do is enjoy his football and score goals. He is a joy to work with”.