Everton manager Roberto Martinez has warned England not to take Ross Barkley to the Under-21 European Championships in June.
Speaking to the BBC, in anticipation of Barkley’s return from an eight week injury lay-off, Martinez said if Barkley is able to play consistently between now and June, he will need a break and will therefore not be able to take part in the tournament.
“Ross is coming back from injury so he hasn't played much," said Martinez.
"If the tournament was now it would be a good opportunity for him to get some playing time but if it is at the end of a season where he has played consistently for 10 months then he needs to have a break."
Gareth Southgate’s junior side impressed in their qualification games and progressed to the finals of the tournament with a 2-1 win over Croatia on Tuesday. After impressing for the senior side at the 2014 World Cup, Barkley would ordinarily be one of the first names on the team sheet if he were to feature in the tournament.
However, with the player now a crucial part of Martinez’s blossoming Everton side, the Toffees manager will be anxious that Barkley does not suffer from burnout as a result of playing too many games.
There is also the risk that the player will be especially vulnerable to a relapse of the knee injury he suffered in pre-season if he is pushed too hard. Martinez also emphasised that it would be a step backwards to select a player for the under-21s when he has been a significant figure in the senior side.
Barkley above the U21s?
"We keep talking about players who need to make tournaments but I think we need to start creating a way of playing, and that way of playing will demand one player or another," added the Spaniard.
"It is not because bringing so many good names together will give you a chance of being successful.
"What would be the Under-21s' objective - is it to get players into the senior side because if players are already in the senior side what would be the motivation for a player to go into the Under-21s?
"Sometimes we speak too much about individual names. You need to look into it on an individual case; players who have played too much football, the needs of the team more importantly."
Indeed, Barkley himself may be lukewarm to the idea of dropping down a level to the under-21s and he may therefore solve a crucial point of contention for a worrying Martinez.
However, regardless of what happens in the national set up, Barkley will be hoping that he can improve Everton’s fortunes after a poor start to their season.