One good season can turn life on its head if you’re a young English player – that is certainly the case with Everton’s Ross Barkley, who is now being talked up as a potential £50m signing for Chelsea this summer by the Metro.
The 21-year-old, while no doubt talented, has struggled to cope with the famed ‘second season syndrome’ this term after such huge hype last year. With that in mind, it’s perhaps best to approach rumours linking him with Chelsea or Manchester City with a healthy dose of scepticism.
Still, hype is a powerful thing in football and it would be naive to think it doesn’t play a part in teams’ plans in the transfer market. Consider Real Madrid’s move for James Rodriguez last summer – a player clearly not needed at all by the club, but still a worthwhile investment due to shirt sales and attendance for his big unveiling; the Colombian was the star of the World Cup in 2014 and one of the most talked about footballers in the world for some time.
If Barkley continues to do enough to justify the tag of ‘the next Wayne Rooney’ or ‘next Paul Gascoigne’ and other nonsense, then there’s every reason for Chelsea to add to the hype by handing him his big move. As with Rodriguez in Madrid, shirt sales would be through the roof and there’d be a buzz around the club – big signings affect the other players too.
Still, the Toffees star badly needs to show he is above the hype and stay where he is. Either that, or go to a club where he can truly continue to develop, because that certainly won’t happen at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea have a shaming record of sweeping up a large number of talented youngsters while they’re still going – Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah – and then never using them. Barkley’s potential would not be a priority for the Blues, they’re all about what a player can do NOW, and right now he isn’t ready to play for a big club.
Barkley’s career at Chelsea would be painfully predictable: first season – 15 games, uncertainty over his future; second season – loaned out to Southampton or West Ham; third season – gone, perhaps back to Everton or any other mid-table side. This kind of dithering can really set players back and Barkley is a good enough talent that this would be a real waste and a loss for English football.
Hopefully his Everton team-mate Lukaku can lend him a useful word of advice about opportunities for young players at Chelsea, because it is absolutely the worst move he could make right now.