By Martyn Herman
LONDON, Dec 8 (Reuters) - With a World Cup looming and England searching for a new hero, Everton's Ross Barkley appears to fit the bill although his club manager is warning against over-hyping the 20-year-old.
Barkley was outstanding in Everton's 1-1 draw at Premier League leaders Arsenal on Sunday, producing a display of power, pace and awareness to earn the man-of-the-match award.
While calling Barkley a "unique talent", Roberto Martinez tried to quell the growing clamour to make him an integral part of England's midfield in Brazil next year.
"I have great admiration for Ross, he has incredible potential," Martinez, whose side underlined their top-four credentials with a draw courtesy of Spanish teenager Gerard Deulofeu's late leveller, told reporters.
"We need to give him time and need to accept that it will take time but he has absolutely everything.
"The manager of England has to decide what role there is for Ross, if any, but we need to make sure we give him 50 games to see his evolution.
"Any players with talent need to develop their understanding and the know-how to be effective. As a country we need to be more protective of our young players but if we look after him he can give the nation something unique."
Barkley, who made his full England debut this year against Moldova, outshone the likes of Arsenal's Mikel Arteta and Mesut Ozil on Sunday with a performance of real maturity.
He was at the heart of Everton's first-half dominance which left Martinez enthusing about the youngster and his in-form team who are sitting fifth in the Premier League, two points behind second-placed Liverpool.
"I've never seen a young English player with his sort of mentality," said Martinez, who has made a stunning impact in his first season at Goodison Park.
"I can see some (Michael) Ballack in him and some Gazza (Paul Gascoigne). It's fine for us to make comparisons but he is Ross Barkley. He has great balance, is good with both feet and is developing an incredible awareness.
"You can compare him against any of the best young Brazilians, Dutch or even Spanish."
With Barkley and Deulofeu, who is on loan from Barcelona, Everton boast two prodigious talents but also have older heads such as Gareth Barry and Sylvain Distin.
It's the perfect blend, according to Martinez.
"You can't have 11 young talents or 11 sets of old legs," he said, also praising the impact of former Wigan Athletic player James McCarthy, who has more than 100 Premier League games under his belt despite being only 23.
"We were incredible today. We played well (in the win at Manchester United) but were even better today. We have got over our mental block away to title contenders.
"This was a massive step forward for us today." (Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Toby Davis)
- Sports & Recreation
- Ross Barkley
- Premier League
- Roberto Martinez