Manchester City, Ross Barkley, and a familar tale 4


This kind of story makes me shudder - we’ve heard it so many times before and it nearly always ends badly for the player involved.

The Mirror report - well, ‘claim’ - this morning that Manchester City are considering moving for Everton’s Ross Barkley and are pondering a £25m bid for the midfielder.

Now, the obvious caveat is that this is The Mirror and this story sounds very much like a ‘take a guess at something with high probability, add-in a guesstimated fee’ type of rumour.  Naturally, it’s that time of year.  However, the principle of Ross Barkley moving to a larger club is a topic which will be very prevalent in the future, so it’s worth a couple of lines now.

This is all hypothetical…

If Manchester City were to sign Ross Barkley they would be making a smart move; he is not ready to be a first-team regular at The Etihad, but buying him now would probably save money in the future.  The more he plays and the better he gets, the more demand there will be for him and the more his price will rise.

Additionally, this is not Jack Rodwell or Scott Sinclair, this is a player who has a credible shot at playing at the highest level of the game and of becoming an icon of English football.  Within two or three years, he should be able to hold-down a starting spot at a Champions League participant.

There’s no problem with any of that, because City’s only debt is to themselves and they have no obligation to look after developing English players.

However, from Ross Barkley’s perspective, a move away from Everton any time soon would be a catastrophe.  The difference between him now and twelve months ago is startling and, on top of the natural maturation of his ability, he owes that to regular pitch-minutes at Goodison Park and playing for Roberto Martinez.  He’s in the happy situation of having a manager who believes in him and being amongst a squad of players who are talented enough to compete but not too talented as too marginalise him from the team.

Think of the progression in his game in just one year, and think about where he might be in three.  Barkley is a frighteningly able player, and the sky really is the limit with him.

But the sky is not the limit if he doesn’t play, and trading what he has on Merseyside for a League Cup/20-games a season existence in Manchester - or Chelsea, or wherever else - would be an enormously short-sighted decision.  Despite the flashes of brilliance, he is still too raw to be a consistent option for a top-four side.  He does wonderful, wonderful things with the ball, but there’s also a very obvious naivety to him which makes him a periodic liability.  Until that dissipates from his game, he is still in the ‘bit to learn’ category.

He’s twenty years-old, the chance to play for a behemoth club will be there for many more years to come - there’s no sense in changing any aspect of his career at this stage.

The Mirror’s article is almost certainly a clicks-grab on a slow news day - the £25m fee is an absurd projection, but the philosophy here stands up anyway.

Take your time, young English player, learn from the many players who have made this mistake before you.

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