You’d be forgiven for not noticing, but during the World Cup’s opening game, Everton revealed that their manager Roberto Martinez had signed a new deal after a wonderful debut campaign at the club.
Later in the summer, the club’s announcement that Seamus Coleman signed a new deal was equally understated, as the Toffees’ Player of the Year was awarded for his sterling efforts in 2013/14 with a brand new contract.
But you would have to be a hermit to miss the club’s latest contract renewal, as the Goodison Park outfit exuberantly called a press conference to reveal a “major club announcement”; Ross Barkley—one of the hottest young players in Europe—had committed his future to Everton for another four years.
Barkley enjoyed a marvelous breakthrough season in the 2013/14 campaign, producing a myriad of scintillating performances, earning a place in England’s World Cup squad and drawing comparisons with iconic players like Michael Ballack and Paul Gascoigne.
Of course, contracts in the modern game are often not worth the paper they’re written on. But the intent showcased by Everton in tying down their lauded young manager, their Player of the Season and their best young player is a pertinent indication and welcome continuation of the refreshing ambition that gripped the club last season.
Martinez, Coleman and Barkley have all been subject to varying degrees of speculation this summer about moves away from the club, but Everton have received renewed commitment from them all. And in the case of their young England international, the news that he’ll be donning the royal blue shirt for a few more years yet is sure to get Toffees supporters excited about the upcoming season and many more to come.
Barkley is a player who has the world at his feet at just 20 years of age. He plays the game with a swagger that seems to accompany all the best players from Merseyside, and his ability to drive forward with the ball, commit defenders and conjure moments of inspiration make him one of the most enthralling players to watch in the Premier League.
For those who follow Everton closely, Barkley’s potential has never been in doubt. But a terrible injury combined with a few unhelpful spells out on loan conspired to halt his development under David Moyes.
But Martinez was able to nurture and accentuate his potential last season and the Toffees reaped the rewards as early as the first game of last season, when Barkley netted a stunning goal against Norwich.
The 20-year-old’s campaign was sprinkled with moments of comparable genius, including sensational goals against Swansea, Newcastle and Manchester City. His performance away at Arsenal in December was as good a midfield display as you’ll see from any player in the league, and a glimpse into what we can expect from Barkley when he reaches his stratospheric potential.
But just as day follows night, transfer rumors about talented young players at supposed lesser clubs emerge in the offseason. And when speculation began to develop surrounding Barkley, it was only natural for Evertonians to think back to the last capricious No. 10 that took the Premier League by storm before going on to break blue hearts.
Barkley himself spoke in the press conference of how he—a ten year old Evertonian at the time—was devastated when Wayne Rooney departed. But the club have come a very long way since they were powerless to prevent Rooney joining Manchester United ten years ago; this summer could be the most obvious indicator of that yet.
With a bright young manager and European soccer to look forward to next season, Everton are now in position to keep these young talents. Martinez seems intent on building a team around the likes of Barkley, Coleman, James McCarthy and John Stones, and not only are Everton preserving the youthful nexus of their team, but they’re looking to recruit some of continent’s most exciting young players too.
That’s after reports have emerged suggesting that the Toffees could be set to sign Romelu Lukaku on a permanent deal, per Dave Kidd of The Mirror. Lukaku could follow 21-year-old Bosnian World Cup star Muhamed Besic to Goodison Park, and the Belgian’s capture would be another firm attestation that the club has a bright future in store with Martinez at the helm.
But regardless of whether the Belgian signs or not, Toffees can indulge in the prospect of building a team around one of England’s most exciting young talents. A player who they developed, that loves the club and can relate with the supporters that pack out Goodison Park every other week.
With the experience of a full Premier League season under his belt and the news of this contract extension only likely to buoy Barkley ahead of the new campaign, Evertonians should expect even bigger thinks from their star midfielder next season. And comfortingly for the supporters, the lad from Wavertree seems to think he can achieve all his ambitions, not in the blue of Manchester City or Chelsea, but of his boyhood club.