Ross Barkley’s decision to move to Chelsea in January this year raised plenty of eyebrows throughout the British media, and his initial failure to break into the first-team convinced Tottenham supporters that they made a lucky escape.
Barkley endured a tough opening to his career at Chelsea under Antonio Conte after switching from Everton in the mid-season window, as the player who threatened to become an England regular during the early stages of his career seemed something of a distant memory.
But the arrival of Maurizio Sarri has transformed Barkley’s general demeanour, confidence and quality of his performances; Chelsea and England have a proper football player on their hands once again.
Chelsea’s decision to sign Mateo Kovacic on a season-long loan deal hinted at another season of obscurity for 24-year-old Barkley, but 3 Premier League starts and 4 substitute appearances prove otherwise.
And his development under Sarri continued onto the international break as Gareth Southgate selected him for the recent UEFA Nations League fixtures against Croatia and Spain.
He made his first appearance for England since May 2016 against Croatia and he continued to impress with an excellent midfield display alongside Harry Winks and Eric Dier against Spain on Monday evening.
Oh what could have been for Tottenham Hotspur. The midfield trio provided a perfect blend of energy, dynamism and defensive protection for the back-four, with Barkley the most dangerous attacking threat of the three – a notion which can be validated by England’s decisive third goal.
As Harry Kane peeled off the shoulder and darted into the penalty area, Barkley floated a delightfully weighted ball into his path and Tottenham’s talisman simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to find Sterling square of the goal to tap home a third – if only Kane had demonstrated comparable awareness when presented with a near-identical scenario in the World Cup semi-final.
All of a sudden the £15 million Chelsea paid to sign Barkley looks like a shrewd piece of business by Roman Abramovich and Daniel Levy will be wondering why he turned down the opportunity to sign a player of his calibre for the measly fee he was available for.
Levy is famed for his ability to sniff out a bargain in the transfer market but there’s no doubt he made a huge mistake when he missed out on the chance to sign Barkley, if his recent performances are anything to go by at least.
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