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Ross Barkley shaping up as the figurehead of Roberto Martinez's Everton

The young Englishman's international call-up is a fitting reward for his strong start to the season

Jamie McDonald

The idea of the international cap as being a litmus test for a player's quality has become outdated in an era where the big clubs can poach talent as they please and international football has slid increasingly onto the backburner, but Ross Barkley's England call-up remains a fitting indictment of his performances so far this season.

The departure of David Moyes to replace Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United was not supposed to be the only movement to Manchester this summer, with both Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini rumored to be following in the footsteps of their former manager. Surprisingly though, neither proposed transfer has emerged, meaning it's actually been a window of low-profile transfers for Everton.

More from our team sites: Everton blog Royal Blue Mersey

However, there was always the feeling that things would be changing on Merseyside in accordance to Martinez's philosophy, which is far more about possession and passing play, rather than the pragmatism that Moyes so often emphasised during his eleven year spell at the club. The nature of Moyes' Everton is best illustrated by his use of Fellaini in an advanced role - the Belgian's physicality meant much of his side's attacking play flowed through his ability to hold up play and act as a target man for both long balls and crosses in from the flanks.

It is telling, then, that Martinez has shifted him back into the deeper position that Fellaini himself favours. "I prefer defensive midfielder because I know my job when I play there," he says. "More things are in front of you."

That was obvious in Everton's first game of the season in which Fellaini was used deep in midfield and regularly dropped back to receive the ball unchallenged, enjoying the freedom afforded to him by Norwich's deep defence to hit positive balls forward.

Fellaini's redeployment also meant Barkley could be used higher up the pitch in the central attacking role of Everton's 4-2-3-1, where he scored a cracking goal. But the spectacular long-range strike didn't exaggerate his performance - rather, Barkley was consistently outstanding for the entire match, working his way across the width of the pitch to link up with both Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas, and also shuffling back alongside the two deeper midfielders to play clever passing triangles, helping to drive Everton's attacks upfield. By playing into Barkley's feet, rather than Fellaini's chest, Everton's attack revolved around short passing - Martinez's wont - rather than longer, more direct play, which featured heavily in Moyes's systems.

Neither approach is necessarily better, or more effective, than the other, but it is refreshing to see a talented young player like Barkley being given the platform to perform in the Premier League. It might feel like his development has stagnated considering he made his debut two years ago, but that belies the fact that he was just 17 at the time and despite a confident display, was clearly not up to the challenge of regular first-team football.

Instead, loans to Leeds and Sheffield Wednesday were a far more fitting way for him to continue his exciting development. Now, with Everton moving in a new direction after the long spell of Moyes, it is a suitable time for Barkley to re-enter the first team fold, especially with his new manager so enthused about his talent.

‘I look at Ross and you tell me what weakness he has. He hasn't got one,' says Martinez. ‘He takes in information, which for a young lad is incredible. He can use both feet, he can switch the play, he has a range of passing and can receive the ball in any area. He has a great shot and has incredible energy," he gushes, drawing links between Barkley and Michael Ballack. "When Ballack was younger, nobody knew what his best position was; could he be a sitting midfielder, an attacking midfielder or play up front? Ross is that impressive."

Martinez refers to Barkley's intriguing versatility, but the feeling is that the Spaniard has settled on using him in the advanced role, having played him there against both Norwich and West Bromwich Albion. Barkley remains a raw talent and thus vulnerable to moments of naivety, as Martinez points out. "Against Real Betis (in pre-season) he gave the ball away twice in a dangerous area; against Norwich it was once and against West Brom, he didn't," he gushed. "It's incredible how he takes things in and can develop - but he's not the finished article."

That last point is pertinent in the context of an England call-up. The temptation now is to overhype - a process which, considering Match of the Day's exuberant comparisons to Wayne Rooney, is already well underway - but a gentler, calmer approach to his development should ease him of the pressure that has become characteristic of so many young English players.

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