Koeman was quite forthcoming about Ross in today’s presser:
“Barkley will leave 100%”
“I found out at the end of the season that he wanted a new challenge, I need to respect that.”
“It is really clear… I’m looking to other players, and not Ross, with all respect. It is his decision.”
So Ross Barkley wants a “new challenge.” And why not, Ross? After all you’ve achieved so much at Everton.
Faced with a decisive and sometimes blunt manager, who is bringing in signings at a frequency that we’ve never seen, Ross has decided to move on. Faced with a big fat contract offer from the club he loves, Ross has decided to move on.
We’re all looking towards a bright future. Finally, FINALLY, we have a pot to piss in. It’s not just Ross Barkley, we’ll be leaving Goodison too, moving to the banks of the royal blue Mersey into a beautiful new stadium… But still, Ross has decided to move on.
And then there are the emotive reasons for staying. He’s one of us, a blue, a local lad. He’s our diamond… But still, Ross has decided to move on.
It seems ridiculously harsh to blame Koeman for any of this. Barkley was offered a generous contract and he turned it down. Any criticism that Koeman has levelled at Barkley has surely been fair. He’s a great player. No – scratch that – he could be a great player. Wait, that doesn’t sound right either… A few years ago I thought he had the potential to be a great player. Yeah, that’s better.
Now though, I don’t know what to think. He can’t seem to hold any kind of form. He’s reckless and risky in all the wrong places. (His performance against Liverpool was so aggressive and out of control that he could have got two red cards.) He lets criticism – both from the manager and from the stands – affect him. Barkley’s unpredictability is a fantastic weapon against the opposition, and while Roberto Martinez loved this, more conservative managers (Moyes and Koeman) want to rein him in. And it’s understandable.
The goals stick in the memory, but the mistakes stick in the throat. He’s capable of that galloping goal against Newcastle and that beautiful arcing shot against Man City (both a few years ago now) but he’s also capable of standing with the ball in our penalty area and nonchalantly flicking it to one of our defenders who is currently lying prone on the floor.
He didn’t do this a few years ago, he did it in what will probably be his last competitive game for us, against Arsenal. Had his mind already been made up that he was leaving?
The Roberto Martinez school of defending. pic.twitter.com/dZYfdTDeCH
— Ed (@dixiessixty) May 21, 2017
The Barkley argument has never been black and white. Yes, he was our second highest goalscorer last season, but you have to scroll down a long way from Lukaku’s skyscraping total of 25, to get to Barkley’s modest bungalow of 5. Yes, his assist tally has been solid, he finished on 8, close behind the likes of Ozil and Sanchez, but you can’t help being disappointed with these numbers. This season he’s been like a footballing mullet, business up front, party at the back – losing the ball with risky manoevres deep in his own half while not being as spectacular as we know he can be in attack – he should have been the exact opposite.
Barkley’s survived a triple leg break, being told his career was over by a cretinous Belgian doctor, being consoled by Moyes who flew him and his family to Tenerife, but later farmed him out on loan. He’s had his ego inflated to near bursting point by Martinez, and then he faced some sharp truths from Koeman. We sing about him, we tell him he’s a diamond, but we also groan just as often. Has he even progressed? Is he better than he was four years ago?
I always think back to Michael Cox’s piece in the Guardian about Barkley. It was December 2013, the high water mark for Martinez’s slick toffee-tiki-taka Everton, and we’d scared Arsenal at the Emirates. Cox writes,
“Barkley is an interesting hybrid of a player. He is physically impressive beyond his years, reminiscent of the manner Wayne Rooney shrugged off powerful opponents in his Everton days, but his greatest quality is his appreciation of space, and the way he constantly varies his position to drag opponents around… Barkley is happy receiving the ball under pressure, too, capable of holding off challenges before playing a simple pass. His work in advanced positions is always purposeful – his clever backheel released Pienaar for a long-range effort before his powerful shot forced Wojciech Szczesny into a fine save.”
This is the Barkley we’ll miss: the Barkley from four years ago.
I’m also really confused. Barkley doesn’t talk much, but when he does it’s usually to say how much he loves us. Almost every video Everton release has a quote from Ross about how much he loves this club. From ball boy to fan to player, leaping into the Gwladys when he scored against Burnley and pounding his chest.
In Andy Hunter’s interview with him, Ross spoke about advice he got from Steven Gerrard, and it’s pretty remarkable given his decision to leave Everton:
“He said there is nothing better than being a local lad from Liverpool and playing for the team I support, as he’s done throughout his career. He told me that playing is the main thing, that going to another team and not playing is no good for my development. He said the big-hitters will be looking at me and be linked with me but that the main thing is I stay with the club I’m at, the team I support and the team I love, which is Everton. I love Everton and all I think about is playing for Everton.”
Does he even remember saying that?! Some might say that he’s been badly advised, but again that’s confusing too… He can process and act on the advice of his agent, but not his manager!?
Adios Ross, I always knew your decision making was flawed, but I never knew it was this bad.
Premier League: Saturday 12 Aug (TBC); Stoke City at Goodison
Saturday 19 Aug (TBC); Manchester City at Etihad Stadium