In 2008, 14-year old Barkley scored two goals for Broadgreen International in the Liverpool Echo Cup Final, and who presented the trophy that day? Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez.
According to the BBC, Benitez and a host of Premier League scouts were 'impressed enough to want to sign him' but Barkley's loyalty to Everton meant there was 'nothing they could do'. Barkley's PE teacher at the time recalls:
"He [Barkley] was never distracted by any of the potential interest from anywhere. He was hugely loyal to Everton and I think that came across when he met Rafael Benitez. He was not arrogant or rude, but it was very much just a case of him saying 'thanks very much' and that was that."
In his first few years at the club, Benitez brought in a shedload of sub-par young players, many of whom disappeared into obscurity, but he started getting it right in his last couple of years at the club, signing the likes of Jonjo Shelvey, Raheem Sterling, and Suso. What a signing Barkley would've been, though! He is certainly highly regarded by ex-LFC players, who've been falling over themselves to praise the youngster over the last few months:
* Speaking to Sky Sports recently, Jamie Redknapp raved:
"Everton currently have one of the strongest squads I can remember them having, and at the heart of it is young English midfielder Ross Barkley. He is one of the most exciting youngsters I've seen, and if he hadn't broken his leg a few years ago he'd probably be a regular for England already".
Jamie Carragher added:
“There has been a lot of talk on Merseyside about Ross. We talk about the players that will come through and ask who is going to replace Steven Gerrard? Who is going to replace Frank Lampard? That goal on Saturday was Gerrard-like and Lampard-like"
Responding to Carra's praise, Everton boss Roberto Martinez - who described Barkley as 'unique' this week - took a more down to earth view of €24m-rated Barkley:
"That’s a great compliment and something you want to hear. I see what he [Carra] means. We’ve got to be realistic though. He’s not the finished product yet, but he realises what he has to do. He’s a great listener and the best is yet to come".
As Carra suggests, Barkley may well turn out be a natural heir to Gerrard, but there's probably no chance he'll ever actually replace Liverpool's captain at Anfield. After eight years at Goodison Park, Barkley is Everton through and through, and if he moves on, it's far more likely - given the David Moyes connection - that he'll end up at Manchester United.
Having said that, plenty of Everton fans have played for Liverpool over the years, including Steve McManaman, Michael Owen, Steve McMahon (who also played for Everton prior to joining LFC), and Jamie Carragher himself, so anything is possible.
In a recent interview, Barkley revealed that Reds captain Steven Gerrard is already giving him advice about his career. He told reporters:
"I was a bit star-struck when I first joined up [with England] but Steven was good to me when I was away. I sat next to him on the coach and he gave me loads of advice. He said playing is the main thing, going to another team and not playing would be no good for my development".
Hopefully, behind the scenes, Gerrard is trying to convince Barkley that his future lies at Anfield :-)
Author: Jaimie K