Prior to the start of this campaign the notion of a burgeoning English talent opting to move for Liverpool over Manchester United would have been laughed off by critics before it was given the chance to gather even the faintest wisp of steam.
Of course the footballing gods work in mysterious ways, and as we draw ever nearer to what promises to be a truly enthralling summer transfer window, Liverpool seem to have finally turned the tables on their historical rivals. Brendan Rodgers has masterfully guided his free-scoring Reds to the Premier League’s summit with but four games left to play, whereas David Moyes has struggled to ensure that a perennial title-winning United horse manages to make it over the last hurdle in a respectable position.
Regardless of their contrasting positions within England’s top flight however, these two great northern juggernauts were always going to find someway to go at each other tooth and nail. In this case it’s the future of one of the Premier League’s brightest young talents; Everton’s Ross Barkley. Word on the grapevine is that Moyes has pinpointed the 19-year-old as one of his top summer targets, whereas the Daily Star reported this morning that Liverpool had officially launched a stunning £38million bid.
Naturally the latter turned out to be nothing more than fanciful speculation cooked up with a view to getting the pre-transfer window cogs well and truly warmed up, but if we’re to follow the no smoke without fire rule, then it would definitely seem as though there is at least some interest in Barkley emanating from the red half of Merseyside.
As for the player himself, a move away from Goodison Park wouldn’t necessarily be top of his priorities, but it would perhaps be something that could interest him if Roberto Martinez’s squad fall short of the top four finish they’ve been so admirably campaigning towards for the past few months. Based on his current ability one would assume that Barkley has the talent to go on to dominate the English game for plenty of years to come, providing he has the ambition to match his potential.
If that is the case, and if he indeed does decide to opt out of Martinez’s revolution with the Toffees, then in my mind there’s only one place where he would be able to continue his development at the same rate as has been evidenced by his rise to prominence this year; Liverpool.
Before I’m gunned down by those livid at the suggestion that Everton’s brightest spark should move to their eternal enemies, let me clear up a few things. I’m not saying that he should ditch Everton for Liverpool, neither am I stating that it would definitely be beneficial for his career if he did so. I’m merely possessive of the view that a move across county - were he to leave - would serve him better than a switch to Manchester.
It’s no secret that Rodgers has started to allow his eyes to wander in search of a player who will eventually fill Steven Gerrard’s big boots, and if he is then he need look no further than Barkley. A powerful and surprisingly complete asset in the middle of the park, the thrice capped England international is a natural successor to his talismanic compatriot, and with Liverpool seemingly firmly on the road of ascension, there is no better time to become his understudy at club level.
In contrast United have plenty of work to do if they harbour hopes of restoring their status as one of English football’s big boys. Moyes not only has to carefully navigate a steady trickle of deadwood through the exit doors of his club, but must find adequate replacements who can come in and instantaneously impact in a way that Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata - admittedly the latter to a lesser extent - haven't managed to do.
In essence what will happen at Old Trafford next season is anyones guess. It’s true that they may roar back in a fashion that would have all of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson naysayers chasing their tails, but there’s just as much chance that they’ll have to take time to begin a slow and steady climb back up to the perch that they have so flimsily surrendered. Put simply, it’s a needless gamble for a rising star to take.
Under the careful tutelage of Rodgers, Barkley could quite easily become the lynchpin of a Liverpool side which is aiming to re-live the glory days of years past. Of course there’s the bad-blood that would undoubtedly ensue between the Reds and his current side, but if his heart is set on a move to a bigger club then it comes down to whether or not he’s willing to put his loyalty aside in order to become the best he can.
Would Barkley be a good fit at Manchester United or Liverpool if he were to leave Everton? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below...