Ross Barkley unfazed by his meteoric rise to the top

Everton youngster flattered by comparisons with Paul Gascoigne and Michael Ballack

Ross Barkley probably won't let the comparisons with Paul Gascoigne and Michael Ballack go to his head. After all, he has heard it all before – when he was 11 years old.

Barkley's manager at Everton, Roberto Martinez, compared him to those legendary players after his assured display in the 1-1 draw at Arsenal on Sunday. The midfielder, who turned 20 last week, said: "It's mad because the way Martinez says I'm like Ballack, my Sunday League manager used to say that when I was 11."

The club are preparing to hand him a new contract next month, and the England international has told the Liverpool Echo: "To get compared to players of that calibre makes me think I must be doing something right on the pitch. I've watched videos of Gazza on YouTube when I was growing up – one of him against the Netherlands in Euro '96 when he was class, so I know what type of player he was. And obviously I watched a lot of Michael Ballack."

Barkley joined Everton at 11 – shortly after those first Ballack comparisons were being proffered – and made his league debut in 2011. He made his England debut in a World Cup qualifier against Moldova in September and, such has been the excitement about his talent, he is already being touted as potentially having a major influence at next year's World Cup finals in Brazil.

When Martinez was appointed as David Moyes' replacement earlier this year, Barkley was confident he would get more opportunities to appear in the first team under the new manager because he had been prepared to give young players a chance when in charge at Wigan. Barkley had previously been sent out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United, but has started 12 of Everton's 15 league games this season.

Barkley has now become a key player for club and country in a short space of time and his manager keeps a close eye on his workload. "Physically, he is one of those players who is really capable," said Martinez. "He is not like other footballers. Normally you get the technical player and the physical player and in Ross's case it is both, which is quite unique.

"It is important to measure him weekly to make sure he doesn't burn himself out but he is really strong and capable of coping with the demands of the league and whatever is thrown at him with international football."

Martinez has also been impressed by the way Barkley has handled the pressure psychologically: "I don't think the scale of the game affects him. If anything he is someone who, because he is so emotionally level-headed, he can play against anyone in the same manner."

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