Chelsea are the Premier League club making the most waves in this January transfer window, having already signed Nemanja Matic, looking set to off-load Juan Mata, per SkySports, and being in the hunt for Mohamed Salah, per the Daily Star's Jack Wilson.
However, one of their most intriguing transfer targets is Everton midfielder Ross Barkley, whom Matt Law of The Telegraph reports the Blues want in the summer if necessary, with the Mata exit part of that strategy.
While he would certainly make a fantastic signing for the London club with the promise he has shown, for the player himself it would almost certainly be better to hang around at his present club for at least the next couple of seasons.
At this point, Barkley is still in his first full season as a senior player for Everton, despite a few fleeting appearances and loan spells away last term.
It is this season, under the management of Roberto Martinez, which has seen him explode onto the scene with the aggression, confidence and directness which are the hallmarks of his fledgling game. With the Blues intent on playing forward-thinking, attack-minded football under the new manager, that's exactly the sort of football which will let Barkley flourish and learn.
He will make mistakes. He will likely be sent off at some point, a hazard of his particular brand of all-out war on the opposition—without being nasty or Lee Cattermole-esque about his challenges. But he will also grow as an individual, a focal point in the team's attack who can make the difference between a capable, intelligent squad and one which is effective and dangerous in attack.
Under Martinez, Barkley will get the chance to play in a variety of roles in several different formations, with the Spaniard known for his love of flexibility within his teams. He'll be asked to play wide or central, withdrawn through the middle or right up close to the centre-forward, bombing beyond and being a threat in the box.
First-team football has quickly given Barkley a route to the international stage with England and, despite his present injury, it is likely to continue into the summer with a place in the World Cup squad. At just 20 years of age, even making the team is an impressive feat, though don't bet against him adding to his three senior caps at the competition proper.
Everton are a club going places right now. Whether that leads them into the top four this season—or able to compete with clubs who bounce back next term—remains to be seen, but it certainly appears that they are going to be in amongst the top seven or so for the long haul.
At his current club, Barkley will not be under as dramatic pressure to perform and have consistent, game-telling impacts as he would if he moved south to Chelsea.
Not that he wouldn't learn under the guidance of Jose Mourinho, of course.
However, it's no real secret that Mourinho expects players to slot into his system, playing in his way, and right now there must be question marks over whether the most could be gotten out of Barkley's skill set by placing him in a central midfield role. For that is where he would surely play at Stamford Bridge, the successor to Frank Lampard, rather than in a more offensive role as the No. 10—where Oscar currently reigns supreme.
There's also the issue of Barkey's inevitable downturn in form. At some stage, it will happen. At Everton he might quietly come out of the team, and be given time to work on his game while a squad player takes a few games in the starting XI, before the wonderkid is ushered back in.
Would such a scenario be replicated at Chelsea, with £20 million players lurking in every substitutes' bench?
Once you lose your place in that team, it could be months before you are handed a realistic chance to win it back. With Barkley's career in its infancy—and thus his developed mentality to the rigours of the game being the same—it's far better that the first great setback should come while he is still in his comfort zone, at Everton, surrounded by people who have watched him grow.
Everton have on their hands quite probably the biggest midfield talent to be produced by the country since Steven Gerrard emerged out of their neighbours' academy.
Barring a takeover or serious investment, they're not particularly likely to hold onto Barkley for four or five years, but for the next stage of his development, he's already right at the best place he could be.
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