Will Ross Barkley's career finally take off at Chelsea?
By Joe Harker
When Chelsea signed Ross Barkley for £15 million in January many were wondering who exactly had decided to move for the player. Antonio Conte didn't seem to want him very much and he endured a torrid time, missing out on the England squad that reached the semi finals of the World Cup. Just as he was looking like the latest player to be dubbed "England's next big hope" to burn out the arrival of Maurizio Sarri has brought out the best in Barkley.
His recent form at club level has been excellent, with his teammates praising his talent. Eden Hazard believes Barkley could end up becoming one of the best midfielders in the world after scoring his first goal for 16 months against Southampton. Having spent much of that time out injured or out of favour at Everton and Chelsea it must be refreshing for the player to be part of a setup where he is fit and trusted to contribute.
Barkley praised the impact new manager Sarri has had on his game. He said he hadn't received enough coaching from his previous managers and was thriving under the increased attention Sarri was giving him. He said: "When I broke into the Everton side under Roberto Martínez I was playing in the No 10 role and I had never played there before, so I was getting used to that role as a first-team player.
"But usually I was a No 8. Before I broke my leg I was a deep-lying midfield player, so I have always been a centre midfielder, either in a two or a three. Now I am in a three and I feel really comfortable with that."
Speaking on Match of the Day, former Premier League stars Alan Shearer and Jermaine Jenas agreed that Barkley now knew his best position and was showing huge improvements as a result.
The upturn in form has seen Barkley be recalled to Gareth Southgate's England squad for the Nations League games against Croatia and Spain. It has been two years since he was last in a squad for the Three Lions and the player believes he is more mature now. Having missed the Euros in 2016 and the World Cup earlier in the year he will be eager to play his way into contention for Euro 2020.
After his experiences over the last few seasons the player believes he is "better equipped" to impress at international level. He already has 22 caps for England and will be aiming to build on that in the Nations League. His move to Chelsea looked confusing when it first happened but now it could end up being the best decision Ross Barkley ever made.