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WHAT WENT WRONG?

How Ross Barkley’s plight highlights the failure of the English football system

The 23-year-old should be coming into the prime of his career but instead he's being let go by Everton

He took the ball with a feint of his left foot.

Dipped his right shoulder to unbalance the defender.

Shifted the ball with his right foot.

Crashed a shot whistling past the goalkeeper with ballistic accuracy from outside of the box.

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Enter, Ross Barkley

PA:Empics Sport
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Enter, Ross Barkley

In less than a second Ross Barkley had caught the attention of English football.

Rare was it for an English teenager to display such poise and technique in the helter skelter of the Premier League.

Rarer was it for that technique to be coupled with the type of physique Barkley possessed- built like a light heavyweight but not weighed down by his 6ft 2in frame.

Action Images - Reuters
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False start

Fast forward four years and where do we find this precocious young talent now?

Bounced out of his hometown club, with just eight England starts to his name and an uncertain future in English football.

Distrusted by managers. No longer adored by the club hes been at since the age of 11. So what went wrong?

What went wrong Ross?

Getty Images - Getty
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What went wrong Ross?

A word from Xavi

When asked by Squawka whether Barkley had the ability to play for Barcelona, Xavi said: “Yes, why not? I think that he could.

“He has incredible physical capabilities and they are good technically. In Spain, we prioritise players who are technically gifted but both things are very important in football.”

Yet somewhere along the line those technical and physical abilities Xavi discusses have fallen victim to perception.

He doesn’t have enough end product. Barkley created more chances than David Silva, Alexis Sanchez and Philippe Coutinho last season.

He holds on to the ball too much. Last season Barkley’s dribbles attempted per 90 minutes was the lowest of his career.

Yeah, but he always just shoots.
Barkley took less shots outside the box per 90 minutes than he has at any other point in his career.

What side is your heart on Ross?

Getty Images - Getty
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What side is your heart on Ross?

England’s great distrust of mavericks

“In terms of being able to run with the ball with pace and power, you could compare him to Paul Gascoigne,” Roy Hodgson enthused of Barkley in 2014.

But in the World Cup the same summer Hodgson chose to deploy Barkley only when England’s failure- effectively down to a lack of creativity and invention- was already sealed.

Hodgson then proceeded to drop him from England’s Euro 2016 squad on the back of a 12-goal season with Everton.

Time and time again Barkley was called up only to sit and watch England toil.

The pragmatist just didn’t have it in him to trust the maverick.

Hodgson in full power stance mode

News Group Newspapers Ltd
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Hodgson in full power stance mode

Square peg, Barkley-shaped hole

Need a left midfielder? Use Barkley. Need a right midfielder? Use Barkley. Need a deep-lying midfielder? Use Barkley.

Barkley was used in five different positions with Everton last season. More than half of his games came in positions outside of his natural number ten role.

Despite that he created more chances than Thomas Lemar and Ousmane Dembele, players who are being linked with £50million moves this summer.

Barkley’s talents are worth building a team around. But it’s seen as a sign of weakness by a coach to do so. A willingness to indulge. Not something Ronald Koeman was ever willing to do.

A ‘frosty’ relationship

Reuters
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A ‘frosty’ relationship

So what next?

It’s a mark of Barkley’s talents that the clubs he’s being linked with are Spurs, Man United, Arsenal and Chelsea.

But look at the last few great number 10s, of whom Juan Roman Riquleme is a prime example.

Riquelme had the talent to thrive at Barcelona but it was only when he moved to Villarreal and the team was built around him that he truly shone in Europe.

So a wise move for Barkley would be to look below the Spurs and Chelseas and instead go to a club like Newcastle, where he’d find a passionate fan base and a team in need of his qualities.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Barkley will be a great player- maybe even central to England plans in the future.

But to do so he needs to have the trust of a manager. The margins for error are so small in English football- at both club and international level- that that trust is hard to find.

Barkley is a wizard when it comes to limbo

Reuters
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Barkley is a wizard when it comes to limbo

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