When Chelsea acquired Ross Barkley in the January transfer window, paying £15m for an injured player, many of us asked the same question: But...why?
Barkley’s move to Chelsea six months prior had fallen through on deadline day for whatever reason, but he had spent the intervening time injured or in recovery. Understandably, he wasn’t quite ready to play, struggled to get up to speed and to terms with Conte’s system and he ended up featuring only 4 times. It looked like he was little more than an opportunistic bargain for a broken midfielder, which did not pan out as Chelsea may have imagined it would (see also: Marko Marin).
But now, under a new coach with an attacking philosophy of play, and more importantly, seemingly fully healthy for the first time in a year, Barkley is back to trying to live up to his potential from his early Everton days. He isn’t necessarily excelling yet, but is showing some promising signs.
The 24-year old recently sat down with Goal’s Chelsea correspondent, Nizaar Kinsella, to reflect on the past and talk about his ambitions for the future.
“I arrived with a long-term injury, I have done everything I could perfectly. I felt strong towards the end of the season and then I went off in the off-season, worked hard, came back and all the hard work I did last season - I didn’t play many games because of a few niggles and that long-term injury - I feel really good now and I know the hard work will pay off.
“I relaxed for a couple of weeks, just rest, then worked hard with the strength and conditioning coach. A lot of running, a lot of ball work and just getting my body right for the season.
“Yes, [the injury] was tough. You know, with the type of injury that I had you do get little niggles. I had a few little injuries from recovering and getting used to working hard and getting my body right again. But I didn’t see it as a waste of time, from the time that I joined in January because I got my body feeling better than it has ever felt before.
“I feel like I have been here for a long time now and I get on well with all the lads. During the off-season I just got myself really fit just to give myself a head start. When you have got a new manager you have got to impress and get used to what he wants really quickly. That has been my approach.”
It’s good to hear that Barkley’s finally beginning to settle in at Chelsea and that he’s been able to turn a rather dark period in his still young career into something he can draw positives from. This is the kind of attitude players should always try and aspire to, but the midfielder really does seem to have come back stronger, both physically and mentally.
Barkley also went into a bit of detail about where he sees his future in Maurizio Sarri’s set-up, where freedom reigns and “suffering” is a thing of the past.
“[I want] to keep learning, the new manager obviously has a different style of play to our previous manager. There will be freedom because you have three men in the midfield. Going forward, getting close to the box, having shots, trying to create, obviously we have to be disciplined and organised without the ball.
(Ed.note: so there is still a bit of suffering...)
“Being well drilled, it’s a new style and we are all learning day-by-day. Every day just taking all the information from the manager, Gianfranco Zola as well, step by step getting a lot of game time. Scoring goals, creating goals, towards the end of the season there will hopefully be a prize at the end with a trophy or a couple of trophies.
“We will see how it goes, but one step at a time, I’m hoping to start the season really strong.”
Strong words and intention from Ross The Boss; words that I hope he follows up with suitable action. On a side note, it’s also great to see another player explicitly naming Gianfranco Zola as a great mentor, as the Chelsea legend seems to be flourishing in his role as source of insight and support for the players.
Lastly, Barkley was also asked about England’s run in this year’s World Cup, a competition that he had once hoped he could join as well following his Chelsea move. Obviously that didn’t quite work out, but he’s not given up hope in earning a spot with the Three Lions in the future. Again, Barkley says all the right things here, and that’s never a bad thing.
“To earn a regular spot at Chelsea is my main focus. If I do well at Chelsea, then the national team will take care of itself. Chelsea is a massive club, you aim to win the Premier League or are challenging for trophies with the aim to win everything.
It will take care of itself if you keep producing the goods on the pitch, so I am focusing on what I can do for my club right now, but one of my goals is to get back in the England set up and to keep progressing. I am working day-by-day, giving it my all and I am ready to kick on this season.”
-Ross Barkley; source: Goal.com
Nicely said, Ross Barkley.
Or should I say, John Cena?