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The One who Got Away: Ross Barkley’s (failed) transfer saga to Chelsea

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It was all for naught.

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Chelsea v Everton - Premier League Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Despite his many faults as a player, Everton's Ross Barkley was one of the hottest commodities of the summer transfer market. Being young, homegrown and already Premier League-proven, interest in his services from several top English clubs was hardly a surprise.

His contractual situation at Goodison Park was also a major factor. His contract is set to end in 2018 and as he was refusing to put pen to paper on an extension, many clubs saw this as a prime opportunity to add an above-average homegrown player with plenty of upside on the "cheap" — though the "cheap" in today's market means a £25 million transfer fee and £150,000 in weekly wages.

Among those clubs were Chelsea, who are always on the lookout for such opportunities (see: Loan Army), often to a fault (see: reluctance to pay massive transfer fees). The first rumours linking Barkley to a potential Chelsea switch emerged in late July, as Everton attempted to spark a £50 million (looooool) bidding war. Chelsea’s interest was soon confirmed by club-sourced reports from the likes of the Telegraph’s Matt Law.

By that time, Spurs were already the main contenders for his signature as Barkley, perhaps seeing the success of Mauricio Pochettino’s work in developing Dele Alli and Harry Kane into world-class players, thought the Spurs head coach could do the same for him. But if you think the Chelsea board are cheap, you haven’t had Daniel Levy instead of Roman Abramovich as your chairman.

Regardless, Everton’s £50 million (looooool) asking price was a too steep even in this crazed market environment, and no bids arrived at their table. Three weeks later, they dropped the price to £30 million having identified a replacement in Swansea City attacking midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, who would end up costing them £45 million (!!) before long. No doubt that £30 million was still steep, but at least it was a more reasonable demand somewhat in line with new market realities. That is until Barkley was hit with an untimely hamstring injury just after recovering from groin surgery. This should’ve put all interest in him on hold, but both Chelsea and Spurs remained keen.

Chelsea were the first, and apparently only, team to make a concrete approach in the end however. A first bid of £25 million was rejected but a second one around £30-35 million on transfer deadline day was accepted. Despite stories that Barkley’s preferred destination was Spurs, the transfer looked set to go ahead, with Chelsea hoping that the 23-year-old would complete a trio of depth signings in the final hours of the transfer window.

But it was just not meant to be.

While that tweet can be interpreted in a few funny ways, we can probably rest assured that Barkley didn’t walk out in the middle of his medical. He did so either before or after, though the difference between all three situations is largely academic.

But unlike other players who came close to joining Chelsea in the summer, Barkley didn’t go to another team like Spurs (see: Fernando Llorente) or Liverpool (see: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain) or Manchester United (see: Romelu Lukaku), he went back to Everton instead to think about life, love, and the future. Or something.

Perhaps the strangest part was that no one was more surprised and annoyed by all this than Everton, who were already counting the millions they were about to receive for their want-away player. Everton chairman Farhad Moshiri was none too pleased that Barkley was being returned to sender, and took the fairly strange step of talking openly and publicly about the failed transfer situation almost immediately after.

"[Chelsea and Everton] agreed a deal of £35 million and I think personal terms were agreed. After the medical we heard from Paul Martin, Ross Barkley's agent, that he had changed his mind and wanted to reconsider his position during the January window — that is the latest. He is currently injured so I think technically he will be with us because he is under contract for another year, so it is a big surprise, but that is football."

-Farhad Moshiri; Source: ESPN

Barkley’s decision has screwed Everton out of a good chunk of money, unless he ends up signing an extension as part of some sort of appeasement (thus guaranteeing that Everton receive a good-sized transfer fee if and when he moves on) As it stands, he will leave the club either for free next summer or for a greatly reduced transfer fee in January. If he does end up coming to Chelsea, he might even turn out to be the supposed bargain we were looking for in the first place! (We will first have to convince him to choose us instead of Spurs of course.)