Barcelona winger Gerard Deulofeu has been praised by Everton manager Roberto Martinez for his “special touch” in the wake of his equalising goal against Arsenal on Sunday, and the Spanish manager has spoken of his hope to extend the 19-year-old’s stay at Goodison Park beyond his current season-long loan.
Having come off the bench with just over 10 minutes to play, Deulofeu looked on as Mesut Ozil had appeared to give the Gunners a late victory, but the Spaniard scored just four minutes later to give the Toffees a share of the points.
Everton were hugely impressive at the Emirates Stadium – especially in a first half where they dominated possession like no other Premier League side has done to Arsenal – and Deulofeu’s performance comes off the back of his man-of-the-match display last week where he made his first league start against Stoke.
And Martinez has now revealed that there is already an agreement in place to keep hold of Deulofeu for a second year should Barcelona decide he is available to do so.
“We have an agreement to extend the loan for an extra year if Barcelona don't need Deulofeu,” said Martinez.
“He has incredible pace and I've never seen a player so quick with the ball.”
The Nou Camp hierarchy have high hopes for Deulofeu, having seen him star in Spain’s successful Under-19s European Championships campaign, so the chances of a permanent move at this time are on the lesser side of slim.
However, with Lionel Messi, Neymar, Pedro, Adriano, Christian Tello and Isaac Cuenca currently available out wide to manager Gerardo Martino , the Catalan club could well be willing to let Deulofeu spend a second season on Merseyside. They are believed to be a fan of Martinez’s attacking style of play, which was a key reason that he joined the Toffees in the summer in the first place.
“You've got certain players with raw talent who can create from nothing with a special touch and he is one of them,” added Martinez.
“I always thought he'd take until February to learn how to deal with the league but he's surprised me. He's very arrogant in the right way and today's finish is exactly what he deserves.”
The draw sees Everton remain just outside the top four having extended their unbeaten run to eight games thanks to Deulofeu’s third goal for the club.
Another to draw praise from Martinez was young England midfielder Ross Barkley, who was a constant thorn in the side of the Gunners defence throughout the first half. His penetrating runs from deep were causing all sorts of problems, and had Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny not been at their best, would have surely led to an opening goal for the visitors.
“In Ross Barkley I see bits of Michael Ballack, bits of Gazza (Paul Gascoigne),” Martinez raved.
“The manager of England needs to decide what role Ross has, if any, but we need to give him another 50 starts at least to see his full influence. He could give us something unique as a nation.
“He has great balance with both feet, he's strong, powerful, has awareness and you can compare him against the young Brazilian, Dutch and Spanish players.”
Martinez will be far more pleased having left the Emirates Stadium than his last visit, which saw his Wigan side get relegated at the end of last season before he departed to join Everton.