When Chelsea signed injured Ross Barkley from Everton last season despite the fact he had not played football for some time, many wondered what the Blues were up to. The 24-year-old had been one of the standout players in an Everton team that had relatively underperformed for several years failing to win any trophies despite changing managers and investing in new players.
That accounted for why the player sought to leave the Toffees for a side that could offer him Champions League football and the chance to win trophies. With Chelsea largely underperforming last term and Antonio Conte looking for solutions both in the midfield and attack, Barkley found himself at Stamford Bridge.
But after failing to hold down a starting place under former manager Antonio Conte, the central midfielder has gradually been eased into the team by new boss Maurizio Sarri, and he has not disappointed. Having started thrice and come in as a substitute in four games, he has played in seven of the club’s eight Premier League matches this season.
He has also been one of the top performers in the team as Sarri’s men make a push for the Premier League title. Chelsea remains unbeaten in the league so far along with Liverpool and Manchester City. Although Eden Hazard is stealing all the headlines as a result of his goalscoring exploits, several other players have also been in top form, and Barkley is one of such. When he capped off an excellent team performance with a goal and an assist as Chelsea dismantled Southampton 3-0 early in October, many began to take notice.
But he has not stopped there. After being left out of the England squad for the World Cup, the former Everton man was handed another call-up to the national team by manager Gareth Southgate. He stood out as the Three Lions went unbeaten against Croatia and Spain in the UEFA Nations League. In fact, he played a starring role in midfield as England pulled off an unexpected 3-2 victory against the 2010 World champions in Seville.
Marcos Alonso, who featured for the Spaniards, heaped praise on his club teammate in a post-match interview.
“He’s a great player. He showed it not just [on Monday] but against Croatia too: he showed that he could be a great player. I hope he keeps improving and that he helps us at Chelsea to stay near the top.
“Last year he had a long time out injured, the first year with us at Chelsea and I have no doubt that with confidence and minutes he is a great player and I hope that he can help us a lot for the rest of the season,” he said.
The left-back also stated:
“Even at the World Cup England, despite playing well, were aware that they didn’t really have that kind of player, someone in the middle who played and made others play, who used the ball.”
All things point to the fact that Barkley could become a critical player for both club and country. With Sarri-ball now flourishing at Stamford Bridge, the midfielder can only develop further provided he puts in the requisite work.