It's an encouraging time to be an Everton fan at the moment.
Roberto Martinez has built on the years of work done by David Moyes to create a dynamic, exciting team. They have some of the better young players in the country and the force of Martinez's personality seems such that he'll be able to attract players to Goodison Park on his own.
The good news continued on Tuesday when young England midfielder Ross Barkley signed a new four-year contract, ostensibly putting to bed any speculation that he might be sold to one of the Premier League's big boys who have reportedly been looking at him, as per the Daily Mirror.
Barkley, an Everton fan as a boy, was clearly delighted at signing the deal and outlined the significance of him committing his future to the club, as quoted by the Daily Mail:
It means everything to me. It's a dream playing for Everton. As soon as I got told about it I wanted to sign. I've played for Everton most of my life. This is a big thing for me.
I realise the importance of signing because I remember how I felt when Wayne (Rooney) left. He was one of the best players in the team and we thought we could push on with him at Everton. When he left we were all down as Evertonians.
This is a crucial move for Everton. Barkley may be young, but he is a player around whom a manager can build a team. He combines a natural touch and creativity that when combined with his strength makes him a formidable opponent.
The lightness of his control almost doesn't tally with his physical size (he is a little over 6'2''), but the sight of him marauding through midfield is undoubtedly a formidable one and has led to comparisons with Paul Gascoigne and Michael Ballack, most recently made by Phil McNulty of the BBC.
Of course Barkley is still raw. While the basic skills are there and then some, his decision-making leaves plenty to be desired, often choosing to shoot when a pass is on and sometimes taking too long over selecting a ball. This is perhaps one of the reasons that he scored six goals but didn't record a single assist in the Premier League last term.
Indeed, him signing a new contract doesn't necessarily mean that Barkley will stay at Everton in the long term. One only has to look across Stanley Park for evidence that a new deal does not always equal loyalty, after Luis Suarez signed a fresh contract with Liverpool in December but by July was demanding a move away.
While Barkley is not Suarez and obviously has more of a connection to his club than the Uruguayan, this must not be taken as a sign of his unwavering loyalty.
Of course, if he does leave for one of the big boys at some point in the near future, one wonders if his career will develop along the same path. At Everton, he has the perfect manager to nurture his talents and will at the most basic level be more or less guaranteed of a starting place most weeks, which is not a given somewhere like Manchester City or Chelsea.
Barkley went to the World Cup with England, but at this stage in his career, it was considered too soon for him to be given a starting role.
However, with the international retirement of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard signing for New York City in Major League Soccer, Roy Hodgson will have to build a new midfield, and if Barkley's development continues, then it could be around him.
Barkley could, of course, still move away from Goodison Park, but under Martinez, he seems to have the perfect conditions to make the most of his talents. For Everton and England's sake, hopefully Barkley honours this new contract.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!