Everton midfielder Ross Barkley is using Wayne Rooney as an inspiration as he set his sights on Champions League qualification and a place in England’s World Cup squad.
The 20-year-old has established himself as a regular starter at Goodison Park this season, having played only intermittently for the club under previous manager David Moyes.
Barkley, like Manchester United and England striker Rooney, was born in Liverpool and graduated from Everton’s youth set-up. But it is only since Roberto Martinez replaced Moyes as manager in June that the midfielder has become an established first-teamer.
Barkley made his England debut in a World Cup qualifier against Moldova in September, and has won three caps in total. His form has made him a contender to join Rooney in Roy Hodgson’s squad in Brazil for the finals next summer. And Barkley would love to go there and have the same kind of impact that a young Rooney made as a teenager with England at Euro 2004.
He told the Sunday Times: “That’s the thing every young player would want to do and that’s what I want to do, play the way he played.
“He scored four [at Euro 2004] didn’t he? Knocked out against Portugal. That’s all everyone talked about all the time: Wayne Rooney. No fear, he just went out and played football. I’m focusing on doing well for Everton and the World Cup can be a bonus if I’m picked.”
Barkley hopes to go to Brazil having helped Everton finish in the Premier League’s top four for the first time since 2005.
He added: “I think we’ve got to be looking at the top four because we’ve got a great squad. We should be going for those Champions League places. That’s where I want to be playing.
“We have older heads and youthful players who aren’t afraid to try things. That’s the mix you want. Martinez’s style is paying off. We go into every game believing that we can win -- and everyone plays possession football, even the goalkeeper. The team’s got no fear.”