Ross Barkley is due to leave Everton this summer, having refused to extend a contract which has entered its final year. Manager Ronald Koeman says Barkley will leave the Merseyside club if an extension is not agreed this summer and Tottenham Hotspur appear most interested in the midfielder.
For a boyhood blue, a move away from Goodison Park has shocked many fans on Merseyside. The midfielder grew up as an Everton fan, having played for the club since the age of 11. To add to this, Barkley has made 179 appearances for the Toffees as well as scoring 27 goals.
What remains most surprising surrounding Barkley’s contract refusal is the fact that Everton are a club on the up. Well, at least in terms of spending that is. To date, Koeman has added the likes of Wayne Rooney, Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane to the squad.
Indeed, star striker Romelu Lukaku has left the club, but uncertainty surrounding Barkley’s future started long before the Belgian’s departure.
Whether he wants more money or has been in disagreement with the manager remains to be seen. Nevertheless, Barkley is a talented, young Englishman and his signature will be of interest to many sides in the Premier League as well as in the rest of Europe.
Most notably, interest has arisen from Tottenham as well as fellow Premier League rivals Chelsea and Manchester United.
That in mind, what is the best move for the 23-year-old?
The north-London club have been the frontrunners in registering interest for Barkley ever since rumours of his availability. Mauricio Pocchetino’s men finished second in the Premier League last season, pipped to the title for a second year running. So, the addition of an attacking threat could prove handy.
On his day, Ross Barkley is one the best attacking players in the league. His vision, passing and shooting show him as a danger in the final third. In that department, Spurs aren’t exactly lacking, though. Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Heung-Min Son had terrific seasons last year and edging ahead of them could be tricky for Barkley.
Indeed, competition is good in any squad. The addition of Barkley may well spur on the aforementioned players to a higher level. But, where does that leave the 23-year-old?
It appears that if he does want a move to a club that is likely to finish higher than Everton, then it is going to be a hard task to reach the starting XI every week.
As a realistic option, Spurs seems the most likely destination. Mauricio Pochettino is one of the best coaches in the league at dealing with English players. Alli, Kane, Dier and Rose have all thrived under the Argentine boss and perhaps a move to Spurs would allow Barkley to progress at a similar rate.
Earlier this week, the Daily Mail reported that Chelsea had registered interest in Barkley. Although the interest was nothing more than an enquiry, a move to Chelsea is surely something Barkley would consider.
For one, the midfielder would have the opportunity to play with world class players such as Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and David Luiz. Not only this, but he would also be arriving at a club that had won the Premier League last year. The chance to win trophies is surely something that Barkley desires.
Having said that, it would not be illogical to think that Barkley may not fit into the style of football that Antonio Conte wants to play. As a player who prides himself on spontaneity, he may well clash with the military nature of Conte’s side.
As an Italian manager, it is not surprising that Conte bases his sides on rigid defences and speedy attackers. In that sense of a binary, Barkley falls awkwardly in the middle.
On that basis, and the fact that Chelsea’s current interest is very loose, a move to Stamford Bridge would seem more unlikely than a move to Spurs.
Just like Chelsea’s interest in Barkley, it is reported that Manchester United’s is similarly minimal.
However, interest may have increased in the midfielder given that his ex-Everton team mate, Romelu Lukaku, was recently signed by the Red Devils. A reunion may well be on the cards, but would a move to Old Trafford benefit Barkley?
True, playing every week for Manchester United would be a step up from playing for Everton – just ask Rooney or Lukaku. 75,000 fans every week and instructed by one of the most successful managers in the world – Jose Mourinho – who would turn that down?
The issue with this option is that, although Manchester United seemingly have money by the lorry load, Barkley probably isn’t any better than United’s current attacking midfielders. Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba all provide something different and perhaps more effective to Mourinho’s team.
In summary, Tottenham are closest to signing Ross Barkley. And, in truth, this would be the best move for the 23-year-old. United and Chelsea have limited interest in the midfielder at present. And, based on the playing styles of each team, Barkley would be best suited with a move to Spurs.
With several England team-mates at Spurs as well as a manager who trusts youth, Barkley should be doing all he can to usher a move to the Premier League runners up.
As it stands, a move to Tottenham is locked in negotiations due to Spurs’ unwillingness to meet Everton’s £50million valuation. Thus, a deal for the midfielder could continue throughout the summer if Everton stand firm on their asking price.