Roberto Martinez believes Everton midfielder Ross Barkley has the potential to be as successful as Wayne Rooney -- but says it would be a mistake to compare them.
Barkley, who will celebrate his 20th birthday on Thursday, is set to face England colleague Rooney when Everton visit Manchester United in the Premier League on Wednesday.
Rooney began his career at Goodison Park, breaking into the first team at 16 before moving to Old Trafford for 25.6 million pounds in August 2004.
Barkley has taken longer to make an impact, his development held up after he broke his leg in three places while playing for England U19s as a 16-year-old in 2010.
Having made his debut against Queens Park Rangers in August 2011, the teenager made only four league starts in two years for Everton, as David Moyes took a cautious approach to his development, loaning him out to Championship sides Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds last season.
But Martinez has given Barkley his chance since replacing Moyes as manager in June, with the midfielder making 10 league starts so far and winning his first full England cap.
The Everton manager feels that Barkley could have as good a career as Rooney, who has won the Champions League, five Premier League titles and three League Cups in addition to his 88 England caps.
But he urged caution, saying: “It would be a big mistake to compare players of that quality. I think Ross Barkley deserves his own identity. Maybe when Ross is 35 or 36, he will be able to look back at his career and make good comparisons.
“At the moment, you are talking about Wayne Rooney, who is a terrific footballer -- one of the best of his generation. Ross Barkley has got the same potential to do it in the future, but if you want to compare two players, it would be a mistake. You’re going to get yourself in difficult positions, because they are each unique.”
Wednesday’s visit to Old Trafford will pit Martinez against his Everton predecessor Moyes, who left Goodison Park after 11 years to replace Sir Alex Ferguson as United manager during the summer.
Martinez played down the significance of the managerial contest, but has called on his team to improve their away record against the Premier League’s most successful clubs, with the trip to United followed by a match at Arsenal on Sunday.
Everton have not won at Old Trafford since August 1992, when Peter Beardsley, Robert Warzycha and Mo Johnston scored in a 3-0 victory.
Their away records at Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea are little better. They last won at Anfield in September 1999, have not claimed a league victory at Stamford Bridge since November 1994 -- although they won an FA Cup fourth-round replay there on penalties in 2011 -- and last beat the Gunners on their own ground at Highbury in January 1996.
None of those league victories were claimed by Moyes, who did not take charge of Everton until March 2002, and Martinez is aiming to succeed where his predecessor could not.
He said: “These games will have a huge bearing on our season. It would be very easy for me to play it down, but we’re going to Old Trafford and the Emirates, and they are games that we are probably not expected to win.
“But clearly, if we want to achieve something special this season, we need to be able to break that mentality of not being able to get good wins at the big grounds in the league. In the last 10 years, we’ve never beaten Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool at their grounds. We need to address that.
“We need to make sure that we are ourselves. We need to know exactly how we are going to play and who we are. It doesn’t matter who you are playing against and where you are playing, you need to be able to perform with great standards. That’s a fantastic challenge to have on Wednesday.”
Martinez has no new injury concerns, although striker Arouna Kone and midfielder Darron Gibson are long-term absentees as they recover from knee surgery, while left-back Leighton Baines remains out with the fractured toe sustained during the 3-3 draw against Liverpool on Nov. 23.
Baines could be out until the New Year, although his manager cannot yet be specific on that. Martinez said: “We don’t know. We all know that it could go up to six weeks. Knowing Leighton, I think it could be a lot closer than that.
“It’s one of those situations that we’ll have to take day by day and we’ll see how quickly he can recover.”