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Ross Barkley’s future is up in the air at Everton.
Despite being a regular for Ronald Koeman this season, the 23-year-old has only 15 months left on his contract at Goodison Park.
And Koeman has admitted that the Toffees are more than happy to cash in on the playmaker if Barkley doesn’t want to commit himself to the club.
“He needs to sign a new contract, or you sell the player,” said the Dutchman.
“It’s not an ultimatum, it is up to the club to get the deal over the line.
“Yes or no – it is a decision by the player.
“I think every situation is different, Ross is a boy from Everton, and what we need to show to him is the best reasons to stay.
“Of course, his situation is different because Ross’ contract is running out next season.
“That’s normal in football, football is business where you make decisions at the end of the season.”
And with Barkley reportedly a Chelsea transfer target, having been linked with a £100million move to Stamford Bridge alongside team-mate Romelu Lukaku in the last couple of days, you would think that would be exactly what Antonio Conte wants to hear.
READ MORE: What Álvaro Morata or Romelu Lukaku Would Bring To Chelsea
Would Barkley play at Chelsea?
If Barkley did end up at Chelsea, you would imagine he would only want to go with a guarantee of first-team football.
But that is definitely easier said than done at the biggest clubs in the Premier League.
As the likes of Jack Rodwell, Fabian Delph and Jonjo Shelvey will tell you, trying to break into the starting XI at clubs at the top of the table, especially in midfield, can be near on impossible.
Rodwell, like Barkley, was one of the most highly-rated English young players around before he moved to Manchester City.
He struggled there and is now part of a Sunderland side that is probably set for relegation at the end of the season.
And at 23, it’s a crucial age for Barkley, and the next step could mess up his career if he doesn’t get it right.
But with Lukaku also questioning Everton’s ambition, if Barkley wants to guarantee his place in the England squad, a move to Chelsea, if it does work out could do that.
Where would Barkley play at Chelsea?
If the Blues continue with their hugely successful 3-4-3 formation, you would assume Barkley would play in the front three, as Ruben Loftus-Cheek has this season.
But if Eden Hazard, Pedro and Willian continue in the form they are in this season, it would be hugely difficult to try and displace any of them.
Barkley is often called inconsistent, something you definitely can’t describe Chelsea as, but has been in great form for Everton this season.
You would also imagine that Conte would take him to the next level, despite Koeman being a very good coach.
But if you look statistically, compared to Pedro, Willian and Hazard, despite having impressive stats, Barkley is generally dwarfed by the Chelsea trio.
The Everton man has been directly involved with 11 league goals this seasons – scoring four and assisting seven.
That’s more than Willian’s five goals and one assist, but Pedro (seven goals and seven assists) and Hazard (11 goals and four assists) both have been involved in more league goals directly than the 23-year-old.
While none of the trio have made more than Barkley’s 51 key passes this season, when you work that out per 90 minutes, Willian’s average of 2.71 beats the England international’s 2.28.
That is still above Hazard’s 2.09 and Pedro’s 0.89 though.
Barkley’s passing accuracy of 83 per cent is pretty much par for course with Chelsea – Hazard’s is 84 per cent, Pedro’s is 83 per cent and Willian’s is 84 per cent.
The Everton playmaker has also made more passes per 90 minutes (48.27) than Pedro (38.26) and Willian (43.41).
But he does come bottom of the pack in terms of successful take-ons, with 68.97 per cent.
All three of the Blues current options have more – Pedro has 69.09 per cent, Willian 74.55 per cent and Hazard 78.43 per cent.
READ MORE: Will Antonio Conte Stick With 3-4-3 At Chelsea?
A switch of formation?
Perhaps though, Conte will switch to a 3-5-2, as he has started to do at the end of games recently.
And that would perhaps suit Barkley better, playing in a midfield three, alongside N’Golo Kanté, Cesc Fàbregas or Nemanja Matic.
With Lukaku also being linked to Chelsea, it could be the clearest sign yet that is what Conte is planning, as Diego Costa has been linked with signing a new deal at Stamford Bridge after his January flirtation with China.
Whatever formation Chelsea do decide to play, it would be a risk for Barkley to join them.
He has only ever known Everton, but if he looks at the likes of Victor Moses, he can see Conte has transformed the Nigerian from an average player to a very impressive wing-back indeed.
And if Barkley takes the chance, he could well live up to his potential in one of the most exciting teams in the league.