There’s a developing symmetry to Ross Barkley’s Everton career that completes a rotund circle almost as perfect as a silhouette of the ruddy faced manager who has stood beside- not in front of- the door; unmoved, unnerved, seemingly unconcerned at the Barkley impasse. The decision was Barkley’s to me made, and a pragmatic shrug would’ve probably greeted any result. Now? The boyhood Evertonian discovered by an Everton scout playing football on ‘The Mystery’- playing fields close to his Wavertree home, has told his boyhood club- our boyhood club- he wants a new challenge. As his Everton journey began at The Mystery, it ends in exactly that, too. Who better than us does he think he’s going to start for on a regular basis? What happened behind the scenes with the manager? How much influence has the crowd had on him? What’s his best position? Would he have got a start next year under this manager should we end up bringing in Gylfi Sigurðsson? Why as a twenty year old did he only sign a four year deal, bringing us to this point just three years later? Why doesn’t he want to stay at his boyhood club, especially after a summer that Blues ten years his senior have been waiting for all their lives?
We’ll never have any knowledge of the kinds of conversations Barkley’s camp have had with Koeman, but there’s been nothing to make you think this is not a decision that both of them have long been at peace with. There’s an element of truth in Barkley being badly advised – does he think he’s going to walk into any side above us in the league? In a World Cup year? Risky. But he’s a 23 year old man – he knows his own mind. He can only be cut so much slack, in that sense. Leaving your boyhood club and in turn leaving Everton without any manoeuvrability in this situation, is pretty unpalatable.
This whole situation has slowly unfurled into a mess. A mess that all parties must take their share of the blame in. By the manager’s own admission, he was too public in his criticism of Barkley at times last year, and Barkley, apparently as fragile a footballer can be at the top of the game, unable to shoulder the burden and demands of a manager who evidently saw more in him than he was giving at times. Stripped of the comfort blanket an utterly dependent Roberto Martinez swaddled him in, Barkley ironically ended up shining in the second half of last season. But constantly gnawing at the fans, or half of us, was this situation looming on the horizon at season’s end. Creeping towards this bemusing, mysterious end – as slowly as a 5 year old at the wheel of a Nissan Sunny with its handbrake off, trickling towards the caravan next to us. Sorry dad. Like that five year old bathed in Welsh summer holiday sunshine, who knows what’s going through Barkley’s mind at this point?
He’s not the first to want out, and he won’t be the last. A young man who infuriated many with his apparent lack of decision making at times, has saved his biggest decision for last, and perhaps now we know why he was reluctant to make his mind up all those times. There’s no mystery in this: Barkley’s is a poor decision, but one that will leave Barkley worse off than Everton. And that’s all that matters.
Up the Toffees.
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