London - Roberto Martinez has warned Ross Barkley’s potential suitors not to waste their time making bids in January as not even a ‘Gareth Bale fee’ would persuade Everton to sell.
The dazzling emergence of Barkley has been one of the main themes of Everton’s rise under Martinez and he gave another reminder of his talents on Sunday with a glorious free-kick that gave his side a crucial 2-1 victory at Swansea.
Barkley has three years left on the deal he signed when he turned 18 in December 2011 but Martinez said earlier this month that Everton plan to reward the midfielder in the new year for the rapid progress he has made during the past six months.
Martinez is not naive enough to think that there are no clubs admiring the speed with which Barkley is turning into one of the most exciting young players in Europe. However, he has moved to head off any bids by claiming that even £86million - the price Real Madrid paid for Bale - would not persuade Everton to sell their crown jewel.
‘Ross is in a moment of his career where, first, he knows that he needs to carry on developing and this is the perfect place to do that,’ Martinez stressed. ‘Second, he is a mad Evertonian and enjoying every single second. And third, we are in the middle of a season where we would never, ever consider disrupting what we have got in our squad now.
‘It is not the right time for the player or the club to consider anything. Even if we got a Gareth Bale-size valuation we would never even consider it in January. If we were facing a financial disaster, I would be telling you, “Look, we are in the lap of the gods”. But we are not in that situation at all.
‘We are probably in the strongest financial position we have been for a long, long time. All we are going to make is football decisions. Ross is an icon for us. He represents everything we are trying to do this season, so even if a stupid offer arrived in January it would never, never affect us. It is important for us as a football club to show we are making the right football decisions.’
Everton have been in this position before when a world-class local youngster burst on to the scene. But whereas Wayne Rooney moved to Manchester United in 2004 at the first chance, Everton are now a completely different club and can give players a chance to compete at the top.
A run of 10 games without defeat, stretching back to the start of October, has put Everton firmly in contention for a top-four finish and there is little doubt that Barkley - who has featured in every game so far - will again have a significant role to play against Sunderland on Boxing Day.
‘Ross Barkley is everything a manager dreams of having in a player,’ said Martinez. ‘From his technical ability and the tactical work that we are doing now, there has been a real improvement in the last five months.
‘There is his physicality and then, on top of that, there is his intelligence. I’ve never met an elite footballer with such a strong winning mentality who is so down to earth. He is so realistic about what he has to do.
‘We are not relying on him to win football games. We are relying on him to be at his best to play - that’s a phenomenal position to be in.
‘He is in the best moment of his time here and is everything we want a player to represent at Everton. There is not even a question mark against whether he is going to be here in February or not.’
Ross Barkley’s dribbling skills have already seen him compared to Paul Gascoigne this season.