Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and a host of other Premier League or European clubs with a bit of cash have been linked with an interest in Everton midfielder Ross Barkley, but the latest £50million price tag being put on him is ludicrous.
While there is little doubt that the England international is a talented player, Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea paying one of the biggest transfer fees in English football history would be difficult to justify.
He is still only 20 years old and has barely established himself in the Everton team, never mind justifying shelling out what would be the joint second most expensive fee in Premier League history.
Barkley is currently in the middle of an extended spell on the sidelines because a medial knee ligament injury and the reports that claim Manchester City will meet his £50million say the bid will come at the end of the season.
English football is so starved of exciting, skilful young players coming through the ranks at their clubs that the arrival of a talent like Barkley seems to get some into state about great he will eventually be.
There are many problems with this, but one of the most prominent is that he has yet to show anything close to the kind of consistency needed to warrant such a hefty price tag.
It is easy to peruse YouTube clips of him and get carried away with his array of tricks, flicks and a natural ability to beat opponents, not to mention a talent for long-range shooting, but highlights don’t cut it.
World Cup lesson
England fans called for his inclusion at the World Cup and when Roy Hodgson eventually agreed by taking him to Brazil. When he was introduced as a substitute for the defeats to Italy and Uruguay he gave glimpses of having what it takes to turn those matches around from losing positions.
Glimpses are all they were, however, and he spent most of the time struggling to find teammates with his passing or being dispossessed when choosing inopportune moments to dribble.
It was probably nerves getting the better of him and you would expect that to be the case in one so young. It’s natural to feel under pressure to perform when asked to go on and let it get on top of you.
The problem is not Barkley – that he even attempted some of the things he did shows he has confidence in his ability – but the barren land in English youth football where genuine flair players are meant to reside.
Getting far too excited far too early about promising young creative players, going overboard with the hype about them and then wondering what was wrong with them when their (our) ambitions go unfulfilled is a familiar cycle. We just don’t see enough of them or know enough about them to bloody well calm down.
Such ignorance, along with UEFA’s ‘home-grown’ rules with regards squad players, mean a player like Barkley gets an outlandish price tag attached to him. Players as gifted as Barkley on the continent certainly don’t go for the kind of money being mentioned around him now.
However, the normal retort to claiming a player is over-priced is that he is worth exactly as much as one club is willing to pay for him, the market will decide his value.
The criticism above about players like Barkley baffling and bewitching the youth ranks in Britain could also provide an explanation as to why he is so valued. Because the general standard of technical ability and level of comfort in possession in England is inferior to most other major European footballing nations, when one does stand out he has a unique mix.
Flair, skill and exceptional technical ability are there in Barkley, but his trip through the youth ranks in England, which are often not the most conducive environments to cultivate his talent, requires that extra physical boisterousness.
Examples to follow
Barkley is the meeting of two worlds and could, possibly, gather the best of both to transform himself into a formidable force on the European stage. Blueprints for him would be Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo; the Real Madrid pair have made the most of their technical ability, while also working hard to become physically imposing.
All this is 'what if', however, and there is no telling if he will actually come to realise his immense promise – he may never be the same when returning from his serious knee injury.
That is why £50million is ludicrous. Not only that, it is not fair on a player that hasn’t even had the benefit of a full season playing regularly in the Premier League. Everton are too smart to turn down a ridiculous offer in the region of £50million, so if any of Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea are lured into paying it, they are being conned.