Former Manchester United and England midfielder Paul Scholes believes Ross Barkley is fast becoming a key component of the national side, and sees glimpses of Paul Gascoigne and Wayne Rooney in the young Evertonian.
Barkley came on as a second-half substitute in Tuesday night’s draw with Italy and Scholes is confident the 21-year-old can now begin to establish himself in the England starting line-up.
Writing in his weekly column for The Independent, Scholes said: “Against Italy as a second-half substitute on Tuesday night he showed exactly the kind of form that is required to make his own position in the team. I think he is best-suited to: the No 10, either at the top of a diamond or behind a lone striker.
“England play again in June, Barkley has to take the next step and claim that starting role as his own.”
The introduction of Barkley at half-time, alongside Michael Carrick, were crucial in changing the complexion of Tuesday night’s draw in Turin, according to Scholes.
“In the second half, it was crucial that Michael Carrick was on the pitch. As I have said many times before, Michael is capable of breaking up play like a good defensive midfielder but he can also pass the ball well," Scholes said.
“He is always in the right place. On top of that, Barkley gave the team the attacking creativeness they had lacked.”
Ready to grasp his opportunity
Not 22 until December, Barkley is still at the maturing stage of his career but Scholes believes the Everton star is ready to grasp his opportunity and make himself a first team regular - in much the same vein as Gascoigne and Rooney.
“Our modern coaching culture is not to put too much pressure on any one performance, to let an individual flourish over time," he continued.
“But when it comes down to it you do have to accept that you can’t keep putting the moment off. At some point a young player has to grasp the opportunity and make himself undroppable.
“Barkley reminds me of a footballer I played alongside against Italy in La Tournoi in Nantes, 18 years ago. That was Paul Gascoigne, a substitute that day and, at his peak, a brilliant creative player.
“I think there is a bit of Rooney in Barkley, too. Barkley has the energy and enthusiasm of Delph and Henderson but he has that creativity too, and that kind of ability will be what wins England games against the better football nations.”
With Everton enduring a difficult season in the Premier League under Roberto Martinez, Barkley’s progression has been hindered, with Scholes pointing out that the England international has been unable to play with the same freedom.
“Playing for an Everton team who have struggled this season, despite a better run in the last four games, has not helped Barkley.
"When I have watched him play for his club recently I have felt that he has tended towards the safe option in his play."
“That is natural when you are playing in a team who are losing or drawing a lot of games. But that is not what has made him the player he is so far in his career.”
Since their disappointing World Cup exit from the group stages in Brazil, England have gone on an eight-match unbeaten run. The emergence of Ross Barkley, during that period, has given Scholes the belief that England can progress to the next level.
“Since the World Cup last summer, England have become a much more energetic, aggressive team in midfield and that gives them a good basis.
“In Barkley they have a player who may one day be capable of raising the national team to the next level.
“But in order to do that he needs to start taking his chances as he did on Tuesday. It’s the hard part of making it as a top footballer, but there really is no alternative.”