Gerard Deulofeu eager for Premier League start at Everton after impressing during loan spell from Barcelona

The Catalan prodigy has made 10 appearances so far

On-loan Barcelona forward Gerard Deulofeu is champing at the bit for a run in the first team after manager Roberto Martinez admitted the youngster has exceeded his expectations.

The Catalan prodigy has made 10 appearances this season but his only two starts have been in the Capital One Cup, which the Toffees exited in September.

But after a string of exciting performances coming off the bench, the 19-year-old is at the stage where he wants to be included from the off.

Martinez did not expect the teenager to be competing for a place in his starting line-up until the new year as he adapted to a new country but he is now making a strong case.

"His progress has been quicker than I expected," said the manager.

"His talent is there for everyone to see; he is an exciting footballer and when you see him on the ball you know something is going to happen.

"It was always going to be the case adapting to the British style and physicality of the league would take a few months but I never expected him to be ready to play in the league until January or February.

"It was a shame we were knocked out of the Capital One Cup because I thought that was a perfect introduction for him into the British game.

"It is safe to say Gerard has exceeded my expectations in terms of how quickly he has adapted and has become someone very important to the side.

"He has already played big chunks of games and has had a big impact.

"He has surprised us all and he has started to get frustrated to not start a game and that is fantastic."

That Barcelona were prepared to allow one of their great hopes to move to Goodison Park for the season was seen as a coup for Martinez.

And it appears officials at the Nou Camp are more than satisfied with the progress being made.

"There is a different approach when you have young players who have not played in this league and need a period of adaptation," said the Toffees boss.

"Barcelona were pleased with that and felt that was what he needed - they think so highly of him they were prepared to accept whatever was needed for him to flourish and become the player we know he can be."

Deulofeu had his first taste of a Merseyside derby last weekend when he was the surprise replacement for the injured Leighton Baines five minutes after half-time.

Martinez had two defenders on the bench but opted to switch midfielder Gareth Barry to left-back and throw his young attacker into the fray, which corresponded with their best passage of play as they came from 2-1 down to lead 3-2 before Daniel Sturridge's 89th-minute equaliser.

It may have been viewed by observers as a bold decision but it undoubtedly contributed to one of the more thrilling cross-city encounters of recent years and served as an example of the mentality Martinez brought to the club after his summer arrival.

"We always want to win, and that will never change," said the Toffees boss.

"The most important aspect is that the players are not shocked by it.

"We work in a certain way so the players are ready for it, and they understand it and everyone is aware of what is expected of each individual to make sure the team is balanced.

"They know how to adapt, how to be well-balanced and that mentality of scoring goals and controlling games will always be successful over 10 months of games.

"The team is ready to make those sort of changes. They are brave changes but they are controlled changes."

Baines could be sidelined for up to six weeks with a broken toe but Everton will not be opening talks over a new contract despite speculation linking Manchester United with another attempt to sign the England international after a failed summer bid.

"The injury doesn't change anything," said Martinez.

"All our plans have always been the same. We want to have Leighton for the long term and that will never change.

"The injury is a set-back but we will use it to regenerate him, to give him a bit of a breather.

"It is a period we are going to use in our favour but in terms of his contractual situation it will never change what our thoughts were and our strategy behind the scenes."

PA

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