Can Ross Barkley Finally Fulfil His Enormous Potential at Chelsea?7 min read
When Ross Barkley emerged in Everton’s first-team squad during the 2013/14 season, there were rumblings of a prodigious player in the making. Similar to Wayne Rooney’s outburst as a teenager, Barkley possessed the same drive, power and innate skill to make the best out of his career. He was the Toffees’ next prodigal son.
After successful loan spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United, albeit the latter was only for one month, Barkley started in Roberto Martínez’s first game in charge against Norwich City. In that game, the young Englishman, only 19-years-old at the time, scored his first competitive goal for the Blues, a life-long dream of his ever since rising through the youth ranks at Everton.
England call up and injuries
Soon after, Barkley was called up to Roy Hodgson’s England squad, thanks to his man of the match performances against a number of teams – notably Arsenal and Swansea City. Barkley’s road to the top of the English football pyramid was accelerating at an unprecedented rate, but it would be one thing getting there and another maintaining the consistency over the years to truly fulfil such a worldly potential.
In his first full season as an Everton senior, Barkley scored seven goals and assisted three in 38 appearances throughout all competitions. His underlying numbers would not be as such to knock you off your feet, but watching him in possession of the ball was enough to see why so many would start raving about the young England international. His passing range, intuition of the space around him and late runs into the box separated him from many in his age category.
Even to this day, but more so back when Barkley burst onto the scene, England were searching for their commanding, exciting midfield player. After the retirement of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard in 2014, the Three Lions lacked a world-class midfielder to not only provide a presence in the middle of the park, but also to produce that extra drop of quality in the final third. It was said that Barkley was, eventually, going to fill those shoes.
However, although it appeared Barkley was going from strength to strength in his burgeoning career, little injuries and niggles kept appearing, causing him to miss out games and lose his match rhythm and confidence. Barkley missed Everton’s opening 10 games of the 2014/15 season due to a ligament injury and would subsequently be dropped to the bench at intermittent parts of the campaign due to poor performances and inconsistencies in his game.
Over the course of the following two years, Barkley’s numbers were increasing, finding himself regularly contributing towards goals, but more importantly, dominating games. His stock soon rose and there were plenty of suitors who were interested in acquiring the playmaker’s signature – most notably Tottenham. For one reason or another, mainly the club’s refusal to negotiate, Barkley remained at Everton and was sucked down a path that would stall his development.
A move to Stamford Bridge and the arrival of Maurizio Sarri
It was abundantly clear that if Barkley was to step up to the plate for his country then he would need to fast forward his maturity phase. A lack of discipline and certain off-field activities had not helped Everton’s young superstar keep a low profile and exclusively focus on his development on Merseyside. Too many distractions appeared in the young Englishman’s life which were causing stagnation to his career.
A change of scenery was what Barkley needed and the move to West London with Chelsea came at the right time at the start of 2018. Although he was injured and missed majority of the season – he only managed five games for both Everton and Chelsea – Barkley soon understood that he was not the superstar at his new club under Antonio Conte that he was back at Everton. That humbling period had a hugely positive effect on Barkley and his progression.
With the arrival of Maurizio Sarri, who plays in a very specific way which means you are either in his plans or not, Barkley’s future over the summer was certainly talked about. However, the former Evertonian remained and, after a steady start, Barkley is now beginning to excel in the Italian’s extremely demanding 4-3-3 system. In the England international’s last three matches – against Southampton, Manchester United and Burnley – he has recorded three goals and three assists. Such is his form at the moment, there are comparisons to a Stamford Bridge legend in Lampard as the player who can carry on from where the current Derby manager left off.
— Chelsea FC – #StayHomeSaveLives (@ChelseaFC) October 28, 2018
Chelsea and England need a goal-scoring midfielder and Barkley has all the attributes and qualities to live up to that expectation. He was once the prodigal son full of talent, but now he is beginning to put past distractions behind him and fulfil his enormous potential. Barkley is a generational player and with the good fortune on his side regarding injuries, consistency in his work-rate and determination to make the best out of his career, he can go on to become a world-class player that will dictate games.
Given Barkley is only 24, he has plenty of time on his side to reach the upper echelons of football and with the confidence he is emanating right now, it will not be long until that comes true.