Barry Verges On Unique 500 Club
Boss praises midfielder as he nears special landmark.
If Gareth Barry figures against Newcastle on Monday night he will join a very elite club.
The England international will become only the 10th player in the history of the Premier League to notch up 500 appearances.
It is a level of experience that only Ryan Giggs and Frank Lampard have bettered amongst the current array of Premier League stars.
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And it is a level of experience Roberto Martinez believes is invaluable - both on and off the pitch - for Everton as they seek to extend their unbeaten start to the league campaign.
He told evertontv: "It is difficult to explain to youngsters how important that kind of experience can be - having that know-how to anticipate what is going to happen before it happens. That is what Gareth brings to the side.
"He is an incredibly well-balanced footballer with very flexible attributes from a tactical point of view but also, for me, one of the finest English players in that position that I have ever seen. To be approaching 500 games in the Premier League shows you his professionalism, his mentality, his character, his ability to adapt to different managers and different ways of playing.
"He always find a way to be effective for the team and if you have won the league and the FA Cup it is clear he is somebody who is a real leader and a real role model."
Barry, signed on loan from Manchester City on deadline day, has already underlined his credentials with his performances in the victories over Chelsea and West Ham.
But it is on the training ground where his presence can be most profoundly felt according to Martinez, who compares the England man to former Everton skipper Phil Neville in terms of his credentials as a role model.
He continued: "It is fair to make comparisons with Phil. It is about respect and Gareth demands respect for the way he behaves, the way he works and the standards he sets not just in games but in training.
"We have a golden generation of young players here and they need the right direction - and having players like Gareth, Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin, Tim Howard who are special leaders in that respect is so important. We are creating something really effective and unique at the football club and it is important everybody understands their role. We are lucky to have such significant figures here at the club."
And whilst Barry may be about to join the elite Premier League 500 club, Martinez is in no doubt there are many more seasons ahead for the Rochdale-born midfielder.
He continued: "I don't see Gareth as a player who is at the end of his career. The way he approaches the game, the way he loves the game - in another situation he could have opted to stay at Manchester City and just see his contract out, but that is not Gareth.
"He wants to enjoy his football and feel an important player and that is what he has at Everton. And that is why he has achieved what he has already in his career. But I feel Gareth is at the peak of his career. You look at the way he has been performing so far, he is somebody who is right at his peak.
"There is no need to look and adapt to a different role to prolong his career yet, but he will easily be able to do that with his intelligence and football knowledge. He can play for many years to come because his impact with the squad his huge. Gareth achieving 500 games in the Premier League is a great achievement but doing that when he is still at his peak of his career makes it an incredible moment."
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