Ross Barkley’s frustration finally got the better of him when faced with the cold hard facts after his latest England snub.
Understandably angry after watching yet another England game from the sidelines, Barkley hit the ‘like’ button when faced with a message on Twitter that pointed out the fact the midfielder has not played a single minute of any of the last seven games for which he has been part of the squad.
That is 630 minutes Barkley has been left to wonder what exactly he has to do to get a chance in an England shirt while James Milner, Wayne Rooney, Dele Alli, Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling, Jack Wilshere, Jesse Lingard, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nathan Redmond, Jake Livermore and James Ward-Prowse have all played in midfield ahead of him.
To make matters worse, Barkley had been told by manager Gareth Southgate that he would get an opportunity at some point in the World Cup qualifying victory over Lithuania at Wembley on Sunday.
Southgate changed his mind with the game closer than he would have liked, instead using only two of his permitted three substitutes on Jamie Vardy and Marcus Rashford.
Barkley finished the latest international break as one of only two outfield players from Southgate’s original squad, the other was Liverpool right-back Nathaniel Clyne, not to play a single minute in either of the Germany or Lithuania games.
Oxlade-Chamberlain completed the full 90 minutes against Lithuania, despite suffering a particularly difficult afternoon against England’s lowly opponents, while Livermore, Ward-Prowse and even left-back Luke Shaw had played a part against Germany.
The fact Barkley has been left angry and frustrated by how last week panned out will be no surprise to Southgate, who hopes the 23-year-old will channel his disappointment into maintaining his excellent form for Everton.
“I had a good chat with Ross on Saturday because he'll be a bit frustrated not to get on against Lithuania,” said Southgate. “He's a player I'd wanted to get into the game, but, firstly, he’s earned his recall to the squad because he's been playing well with Everton.
“I think he is a player that can make things happen around the edge of the penalty area. The changes on Sunday, I felt we needed to stretch the opposition, and make space for the likes of Dele and Adam to play, so that's why we didn't bring him into the game.
“But we like Ross, he's a talented player and he's just got to keep playing well. It's the first time I've had the chance to work with him since the Under-21s, so it was good for him to get a feel for how we work and he's just got to keep doing well with Everton.”
Southgate offered further explanation as to why Barkley did not get a chance in his 3-4-3 formation against Germany, adding: “I explained to him why we hadn't put him into the game the other day, because when we play that system, I thought the three forwards the other night needed to be runners.
“I thought the Lithuania game might have been a good one for him to come into, but the way, unfortunately, it played out we couldn't get him on the pitch.”
Having been left out of Sam Allardyce’s one and only England squad and Southgate’s squad during his caretaker spell in charge, Barkley’s impact for Everton has been striking since the turn of the year.
He has five Premier League assists in 2017, the same number as Alli, Sterling, Lallana, Lingard, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Livermore, Redmond and Ward-Prowse combined, and has created 28 chances, double his closest challenger Ward-Prowse.
Barkley passes more than any of his England midfield rivals, with a high completion rate, and has been working hard to try to disprove the theory that he is a luxury player, who cannot put in the hard yards that so many managers now demand.
His average of 11.1 kilometres covered per game remains lower than Alli and Lallana, but he is attempting to catch them up after looking at his running statistics against the pair.
Barkley has been doing extra running, both in training and in his own time, to improve his distances. Together with an improved diet, the running has helped him lose around 10 kilos in weight.
The leaner and fitter Barkley has caught the eye of Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino, Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger who have all been alerted to the fact that the player’s Everton contract will only have 12 months to run in the summer.
Everton manager Ronald Koeman has admitted the club will have to sell Barkley this summer if he does not sign a new deal, even though the player has made no attempt to leave Goodison Park.
Pochettino’s interest is particularly intriguing. While Southgate appears uncertain whether Barkley and Alli can play in the same team, the Argentine clearly has no such doubts.
One high-ranking admirer of Barkley at a Premier League club described the decision to ignore him for the Germany and Lithuania games as “crazy”, with former England, Manchester United and Everton defender Phil Neville also questioning it on social media.
Barkley’s focus will now switch to Saturday’s Merseyside derby at Anfield, in which he will be a key figure for Everton, ahead of a trip to Manchester United next Tuesday night.
Two more good performances will only add to the feeling that Barkley is far too talented to be ignored by his country. Like it or not, Southgate should not need Twitter to tell him that.
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- Theo Walcott
- Jamie Vardy
- Ronald Koeman
- Antonio Conte
- Mauricio Pochettino
- Gareth Southgate
- Raheem Sterling
- Everton FC
- Arsene Wenger
- Nathaniel Clyne
- James Milner
- Jesse Lingard
- Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
- Ross Barkley
- Marcus Rashford
- Dele Alli
- Jack Wilshere
- Wayne Rooney
- Adam Lallana
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