“Special talent” Ross Barkley has been backed to become one of England’s greatest players as his Everton teammate and manager lauded the midfielder.
The Wavertree-born Academy graduate has been in sparkling form since the turn of the year, providing five assists and scoring one goal in his last eight appearances.
England manager Gareth Southgate was in attendance to see Barkley impress again in the Blues’ 3-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
Midfield colleague Morgan Schneiderlin believes Barkley deserves a chance to shine on the international stage, with his last competitive appearance for the Three Lions coming in a European Championships qualifier against Lithuania back in October 2015.
Boss Ronald Koeman, meanwhile, has described Barkley’s slightly different, more advanced and freer role just off Romelu Lukaku in recent times.
“Ross is changing his style a little bit,” the Dutchman said. “I don’t need Ross on the halfway line, having eight touches of the ball. We have defenders and midfield players for those areas. We need Ross between the lines and close to the opposition’s box, having shots and providing assists. That is some of the boy’s biggest qualities.
“He is so strong, so good on the ball, can shoot off his left or right foot, he’s clever and can see things on the pitch. You look at the third goal [against West Brom], he tried to dribble but saw Romelu at the far post and provided the assist. That is what we need in our offensive game - we need players like Ross.
“He has a slightly different position in the team now, a little bit more free with three midfielders behind him. He’s a fantastic player - he showed that with his assist [against West Brom]. He was outstanding.”
Schneiderlin concurred with that sentiment and says he has been pleased to provide a platform for Barkley to be dangerous in key areas of the pitch.
“Ross is a very, very good player,” said the France international, who netted his maiden goal for the Toffees on Saturday. “He has every quality to one day be one of the greatest players in England. He has this special thing in him and a very nice technique.
“For me, it is very easy to play with players who understand football like I do - who can see passes and make them. It’s a joy to play with him and I’m very happy to play behind him.
“I knew when I first signed here that he was a special talent and I want to feed him a lot of the ball, give him the opportunity to express himself and not worry about anything else other than having the ball and enjoying his football.
“I heard the England manager has been here to watch our games against Sunderland and West Brom and Ross has had two amazing games there. Of course, from my point of view, he will be in the squad. He deserves to be there and deserves to show what he can do.
“I think he is the kind of player everyone should appreciate because he has great technique and awareness, he can use both feet, he is strong - he has everything to be a top player. The team needs to give him the platform to express himself because he can run with the ball, pick a pass and score goals.
“He is working very hard, trying to progress in training every day.
“Even last year, the press criticised him a lot - but he is still young, he is still learning but I can see him doing very well if he keeps focused and becoming one of the main players in the England squad.”
Discussing the criticism that has landed Barkley’s way, Koeman added the 23-year-old has become accustomed to his performances being put on the microscope.
“Everyone knows Ross had a difficult time in the beginning of the season but he’s really improving,” added Koeman. “He is used to having critics because when he came through the Academy here, he was the Everton boy, then maybe people watch him more closely.
“Everyone knows and everyone sees that he is playing very well at the moment and now he must continue that.”