Barcelona's Gerard Deulofeu has been earmarked for greatness ever since he set foot inside La Masia.
One of those young prodigies that you just can’t take your eye off of, the young Catalan appeared to have it all from a very early age. Blistering pace, great balance, an abundance of skill and a poacher’s eye for goal.
The one thing that was missing was the in-game intelligence to turn him from a very good young player into a great one.
Many times during the 2012/13 season with Barca B Deulofeu would win matches on his own, turning defences inside out as he did so. Every goal he scored seemed to be a wonder goal.
Yet, infuriatingly with a team-mate often better placed, the wide man thought it necessary to beat opponents two, three or even four times before trying his luck in front of goal.
Top scoring with 18 goals during that season, per Bostjan Cernensek of Barca Blaugranes, Deulofeu would no doubt argue that his strike rate more than justified the means.
And with the team being the second highest scorers in the league, only a pathetic defensive performance across the season saw them finish as lowly as they did—ninth.
Clearly by the end of that season, Deulofeu had outgrown the reserves and was ready for life with the big boys but a step up to the Barca first team was considered too big a leap at that juncture.
And this is where Barca played a blinder.
A Spaniard whose teams have always been well renowned for playing football the right way and who would help Deulofeu settle into the rigours of top-level combat not only by virtue of his managerial style but also his heritage.
How many players past or present have we seen move to a foreign country and fail to settle? Martinez’s part in this process cannot be overlooked.
Despite a hamstring injury curtailing his progress from December through to February, Deulofeu had already shown enough to have the Goodison Park terraces purring, including goals at Stoke City and the equaliser at Arsenal after coming off of the bench.
After his return, the youngster continued to delight and in a sign of the maturity that Martinez had instilled, Deulofeu was seemingly much more aware of his surroundings, and he was consequently more useful in an attacking sense.
Martinez will certainly miss him. He told Mundo Deportivo via Sky Sports:
He is ready to play for Barcelona because he has special talent, certain qualities that make him stand out […]
It would have been fantastic to have him at Everton for another year, and another year in the Premier League would have made him better prepared to make the jump up to Barcelona, but they didn't want that, and I presume that's because Luis Enrique, who knows him well, knows how good he is.
Despite his fulsome praise, however, his stats perhaps surprisingly aren’t great.
Enrique will still need to work Deulofeu hard for him to be up to the standard required for a regular first-team berth.
Squawka note that he only managed to create nine chances overall last season and could only complete the same percentage of passes as Jose Manuel Pinto did at Barcelona.
Such profligacy will not be acceptable at Barca and clearly there is still a lot of learning to do in order for Deulofeu to become the finished article.
At only 20 years of age he still has plenty of time on his hands to develop his skill set further but at this juncture, Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez would lay significantly better claim to the right-wing berth should both be retained.
Does Gerard Deulofeu deserve a starting berth for Barcelona?
Even if one were sold, it’s hard to imagine Enrique throwing Deulofeu in at the deep end at the expense of protagonists that offer more in the way of goals, assists and general play.
Supporter views should not be clouded by the fact that Deulofeu is “one of their own.” Put simply, if he’s not yet ready, he should not be risked.
In a season of transition Enrique shouldn’t be looking to play poker, because high risk strategies don’t always bring high reward.
For now, it’s time to play with a safe, steady hand.