Ross Barkley. Lacking direction? Lacking maturity? Lacking in positional and tactical awareness? Or is it all three? He can dribble, he can pass and he can shoot, but he has a real problem with consistency. Nobody would dare argue that the boy possesses all the natural ability in the world. But with his 24th birthday just a matter of months away, Barkley appears to have reached an important crossroads in his career. In 150 Premier League games for his boyhood heroes he has recorded just 21 goals and a meagre 18 assists. Ronald Koeman has already admitted Barkley is on his way out of the club this summer. But where will he end up? And will he ever live up to his undoubted potential? Only time will tell.
Six Premier League clubs are rumoured to be interested in signing the enigmatic English international. London quartet Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United are believed to want to bring Barkley to the capital while we’re led to believe that both Manchester clubs are interested in keeping him in the north-west and closer to his Merseyside roots. So where would Barkley fit in best? Or perhaps the question should be, which club would get the best out of Barkley?
After falling just short in the race for the title for the past two seasons, Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino, who has yet to add to his squad in this transfer window, is considering Barkley as a new addition ahead of his club’s assault on the league and Champions League. With two of Eric Dier, Mousa Dembélé and Victor Wanyama providing the shield to the Spurs defence and Pochettino encouraging his full backs to bomb on at every opportunity, Barkley would likely be competing with Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and the likes of Son Heung-min and Érik Lamela for a starting attacking role with a lesser emphasis on defensive duties. A move to Wembley-bound Spurs seems the likeliest scenario at the time of writing.
If rumours are to be believed, Arsène Wenger is another contemplating a bid to bring Barkley to the red side of North London. Wenger has always had a penchant for signing attacking midfielders and having a close relationship with his players but at this juncture he appears to have his hands full trying to keep ahold of Alexis Sánchez, Mesut Özil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who all like Barkley have just a season left on their contracts. The Scouse attacker may well end up on either side of the North London divide but Wenger and Arsenal may be better served improving his defensive options rather than pursuing more expensive attacking reinforcements.
Could Barkley follow in fellow Blue Wayne Rooney’s footsteps by swapping Goodison Park for Old Trafford this summer? With Koeman having already confirmed the talented playmaker is on his way, Barkley may well seek Rooney’s opinion and advice on a potential move down the M62 if José Mourinho shows interest. United have perhaps lacked a touch of creative stardust going forward through the centre since the retirement of Paul Scholes and with Henrikh Mkhitaryan yet to have found top form in Manchester and with Romelu Lukaku having already made the move from Everton to Manchester, what odds his former creator making the same journey?
Barkley’s Biggest Challenge To Date
Antonio Conte and Chelsea won the league last season without the distraction of European football weighing them down. This season, a return to Champions League football is on the horizon and with extra games comes the necessity for a bigger squad. Chelsea could prove a realistic and interesting option while West Ham boss Slaven Bilić is also rumoured to be interested. But would Barkley view a move to East London as a step up from Everton? Unlikely.
Then there is big-spending Manchester City, who are favourites to win the league according to football betting odds. Does Pep Guardiola really need yet another attack-minded player given the plethora of attacking options already in his squad? Probably not in reality, although he did turnaround Sterling’s stuttering form last season and Barkley would be another English player to boost City’s homegrown European roster numbers. However, the example of how his highly-rated fellow ex-Blue Jack Rodwell found himself marginalised following his own move to City a few years back may serve as a good example of why a move to the Etihad may not be in Barkley’s best interests at this moment in time.
Father Figure Required
Wherever Barkley ends up this summer, he clearly needs to find a father figure in the mould of a Sir Alex Ferguson who can nurture him and put an arm around his shoulder when required in order to bring the best out of him. He possesses all the talent required to succeed at the top level and win silverware but currently lacks consistency, tactical and positional awareness and the maturity required to live up to his enormous potential. An experienced head could help him channel his energies in the right direction.
If he needs any inspiration to knuckle down and carve out a successful career for himself, he needs only look at the example of England great Paul Gascoigne. Gazza, one of the most naturally gifted players to ever emerge from these shores, enjoyed a career full of many highs but also littered with equally as many lows. Who knows what the bubbly Geordie could’ve achieved if he hadn’t turned down Sir Alex’s offer to join United instead of Spurs back in 1988. Barkley must for the sake of his own promising career get his decision spot on this summer. If not the term flawed genius which has been used to describe both Gazza and George Best may come back to haunt him once his playing days are at an end.
Will Barkley make the right decision and join the 2017-18 Premier League champions?
Chris qualified from the University of Brighton in 2007 with a degree in Sports Journalism and is a sports fanatic, spending pretty much all of his money following the Welsh national football team all over Europe (and yes spending five weeks on tour with Wales in France at Euro 2016). He has written for numerous websites and has two fully published football biographies to his name. Chris also enjoys rugby union, cycling and politics and enjoys a regular (okay daily!) punt on football.