Everton midfielder Ross Barkly looks set to be rewarded for his breakthrough into the first team with a new contract that will reflect his standing as one of the most promising youngsters currently plying his trade in the Premier League.
This season has seen Barkley emerge as an integral part of Roberto Martinez’s Everton side, and he has also gone on to make his senior England debut at Wembley in September, coming on as a substitute in the 4-0 win over Moldova.
The Everton hierarchy are likely to discuss a new contract at the beginning of 2014 in the hope of tying down his long-term future, and Barkley will receive a significant pay rise in return of his commitment.
The 20-year-old arguably gave his best performance of the season so far in the 1-1 draw with Arsenal last Sunday, and his performances in recent months has seen many clubs keep an eye on the talented Englishman, with the Gunners included in that list.
Chelsea and Manchester City are also said to be monitoring Barkley, who was hailed as “unique” by Martinez following the match at the Emirates Stadium, and he has also drawn comparisons in his style of play to that of former internationals Paul Gascoigne and Michael Ballack.
Despite Barkley having two years left to run on his current deal, a mammoth offer from one of the Toffees league rivals would be hard to reject, given the circumstances that saw Wayne Rooney leave Goodison Park as an 18-year-old when Manchester United offered £25.6m for the striker.
Despite the rivalry on Merseyside, Barkly revealed that Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard had taken a mentor role with him while they were away on international duty, and the 33-year-old stressed that a move to a so-called bigger club at such an early stage in his career comes with a lot of dangers.
Current Manchester City midfielder Jack Rodwell was the latest to leave Everton when a top-four side came sniffing, and since his £12m move to the Etihad in 2012, he has made just 12 Premier League appearances – compared to the 83 he made for the Toffees across the previous four years.
Martinez was keen to stress that fans remain patient with Barkley in order to get the best out of him, claiming: “What we need to do is make sure we give Ross another 50 starts to see his evolution.
“Any player needs to develop an understanding. In this country, we need to be more protective over our youngsters because, in Ross, we have someone who, if we look after him properly, can give us something unique.”
Following their best start to a Premier League since 2004-05 having scored 28 points so far – they had 30 at the same point nine years ago when they finished fourth at the end of the season – the Toffees will also reward Leighton Baines and Sylvain Distin with new contracts, as well as attempt to keep another hot prospect Gerard Deulofeu for a second season from Spanish league champions Barcelona.
Manchester United saw two bids rejected for Baines in the summer, and he has been promised a reward for his loyalty in not pushing for a move to Old Trafford, while 35-year-old Distin is likely to be offered a 12-month extension to his current deal which expires in the summer.