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50-50 Challenge: Merseyside derby

Liverpool vs. Everton Sep 25, 2014
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Jul 29, 2014

Barkley to continue to thrive under Martinez

Ross Barkley has signed a four-year contract extension with Everton which will keep him at the club until 2018. Barkley made 34 Premier League appearances and scored six goals for The Toffees last season.

Although the accompanying fanfare came perilously close to turning this announcement into little more than a cheap PR exercise, there is little doubt that Ross Barkley putting pen to paper on a new four-year deal is excellent news for all concerned.

- Report: Barkley signs four-year Everton contract
- Report: Everton swoop for Besic
- Report: Martinez coy on Lukaku arrival

For the player, tying himself to his boyhood Blues until 2018, this extension will halt the tabloid speculation linking him with a move to either of the Manchester clubs. For supporters, it represents a positive move for one of their own. For Everton, this is a pleasing step and continues a fresh trend.

Similar to the dogged determination in response to Manchester United's brazen pursuit of Leighton Baines last summer, this statement of intent sends a message to the vultures casting covetous glances toward Goodison Park. After years of seemingly crumbling in the face of big-money bids, the focus is very much on the retention of key players -- exits will only materialise if Everton are the ones to benefit -- and new deals for Barkley, Seamus Coleman and manager Roberto Martinez attest to that.

Barely able to conceal his delight at this latest development, Barkley cut an overjoyed, albeit nervous figure during his news conference. Living the dream, joining the club as an 11-year-old, Barkley has already made 50-plus appearances for the club he supports. Something of a rarity in the modern game, with so many hopefuls failing to make the grade, Barkley is a local lad who understands what it means to wear the royal blue of Everton.

Ross Barkley enjoyed a breakthrough 2013-14 season at Everton.
Ross Barkley enjoyed a breakthrough 2013-14 season at Everton.

Now, with his future finalised and his preseason underway, Barkley can focus on the season ahead, aiming to build on his breakthrough campaign in 2013-14. There was a glimpse of his undisputed potential on the opening day at Norwich, as Barkley lashed a left-footed effort beyond John Ruddy to open his Everton account.

Further noteworthy goals and performances continued as the season progressed. Few could forget the 70-yard run and finish against Newcastle or the exquisite strike at home to Manchester City that earned him the club's goal of the season award. The goal aside, Barkley also delivered his most accomplished performance to date in the City match -- the young midfielder looked at home against the multimillion pound men in the opposition ranks.

Though injury and the occasional loss of form surfaced during the season, Barkley displayed a trait too often absent in Everton players in recent years: a constant thirst for possession. Steven Pienaar is perhaps the only other attacking midfielder to approach the game in a similar manner, which helps explain Pienaar's ability to generate such wide-ranging views among supporters.

Regardless of form, there is always a desire from Barkley to influence the match -- and that is an outstanding quality for a 20-year-old operating in a team full of experienced players. There is a confidence on the ball, though it never slips into arrogance; Martinez would not allow it.

Perfect for the style of football employed by Martinez, which relies on players taking responsibility and playing with composure, ensuring there is always an attacking purpose; the onus is on Barkley to continue advancing his game. There were signs of this last season; there was a marked difference between the erratic but exciting prospect scoring at Norwich and the player dominating the midfield against title-chasing Manchester City in the final home game of the season.

Able to enhance his potential further this season, with the added excitement of Everton being back in Europe for the first time in four years, Barkley has the ideal coach and mentor in Martinez. Likewise, with both signing long-term contracts this summer, Everton's future continues to brighten under the intelligent guidance of Martinez.