Dear Daniel Levy,
Hey Dan. I can call you Dan, right? I’m guessing you’ve heard of this website before, which makes us friends in my eyes, so I’m going with Dan.
Dan, I’m concerned about some potential transfer business you might be doing this summer. Tottenham Hotspur has been heavily linked to Everton’s Ross Barkley for several months now, and I think that signing him would be a very bad idea. If you’re not even the slightest bit interested in signing Barkley, I apologize for wasting your time (and mine!), but we have every indication that you’re at least kicking the tires.
Before I get into why I think you shouldn’t sign Ross Barkley, I think it’s only fair to acknowledge the points in favor of making this move, to show you that I understand your thought process and am not simply rushing to judgment.
His contract is running down
On Tuesday, we got news that Barkley has turned down Everton’s offer of a £100,000 per week contract. Everton will now attempt to sell him and already has targets in mind to replace him. Because Barkley has one year remaining on his contract and has made it clear he wants to leave, he’ll be available at a much lower price than he would be otherwise.
This could make Barkley a good value signing in a transfer market that is becoming rapidly more inflated. Bayern Munich is paying €40 million for Corentin Tolisso and Fulham recently rejected a £20 million offer for Tom Cairney. Barcelona has been quoted €100 million for Marco Verratti. If someone with Barkley’s pedigree can be had for £30 million or less, that looks like a reasonable deal in the current market.
He’s the right age
At 23 years old, it’s possible that Barkley still has a lot of room to improve. Most players don’t hit the peak of their career until their mid-20s. Christian Eriksen just took a big leap forward in his age-25 season, and that’s the same age that Luka Modrić became a star player for Spurs.
But Barkley is also old enough that he should be able to make a contribution right away. By 23, most top level players have become tactically intelligent and emotionally mature enough that they can be depended on to be significant contributors for an entire season.
Barkley is also likely to retain resale value, barring serious injury or a catastrophic falling out with management. Even if he stagnates as a player and is simply an adequate rotation option for Spurs, he’ll still fetch a decent fee when he’s 26.
He fits the profile of a Mauricio Pochettino player
The biggest thing that Barkley is known for is his physical attributes. At 6’2”, built like a brick house, with excellent speed for his size and good stamina, he’ll fit right into a high-pressure system. Pochettino would love to have another attacking player who runs fast, runs a lot, and will be willing and able to press aggressively for 90 minutes.
He has Premier League experience
Barkley won’t have any trouble adjusting to playing at Spurs. He’s been a first team regular at Everton for four seasons, racking up 150 Premier League appearances in total. A similarly talented player from another country might need a year to settle in before they’re able to perform at their peak, as we saw with Son Hueng-Min following his arrival from Bayer Leverkusen.
He’s home grown in England
This isn’t terribly important, but it can’t hurt. Premier League and Champions League rules both require teams to have eight players home grown in England. While Spurs don’t currently have trouble meeting that requirement, they’ll be down an English player if they sell Kyle Walker and sign a replacement right back from abroad. Adding another English player gives Levy some squad flexibility, in the event it makes sense to sell another one of the squad’s English players.
Those are the positives. And Dan, I have to admit, there are many. Looking through that list, it’s easy to see why you’d seriously consider signing Ross Barkley. Unfortunately, the positives might be blinding you to the one very significant negative, which I believe outweighs all of the positives considerably.
Ross Barkley is bad at football
Have you ever WATCHED Ross Barkley? Jesus H. Christ. This f—king guy, I can’t believe he’s a Premier League player sometimes. I’m not even an Everton supporter and every time I watch him singlehandedly kill an attack I end up tearing some of my hair out. At least once a game, he’ll have Romelu Lukaku clear in on goal in a 2-on-2 counter-attack and just run into one of the defenders. On the rare occasion he does pick the right pass, he’s not good enough to execute it.
Barkley had eight assists this year, but only one of them was particularly impressive — the backheel through ball to Lukaku against Bournemouth. All the others are hopeful crosses or easy layoffs to someone who has a lot of work left to do in order to get a shot off. And for every impressive play he makes, there are five attacks he kills by making the wrong choice.
There are people who are more qualified than I am to speak about football who share my opinion. "If I was playing with him, I would be falling out with him," said Graeme Souness. “He runs with it when he should pass it, he passes it when he should run with it. His decision making is poor in the extreme."
His former teammate Leon Osman agrees, even if he wasn’t as harsh. "He's been playing in the first-team since he was 17,” Osman said on BBC Radio. “That's a long time to have been playing in the Premier League and not kicked on, and not made that next step. It's worrying that he's still being talked about as a young player and 'give him time'."
I think the most striking thing about watching Everton this season was how much better Tom Davies was than Ross Barkley the second he got on the ball in his first professional match. That 18-year-old Davies — with over 150 fewer pro games under his belt — was so clearly smoother and smarter with the ball than Barkley was a real eye-opener.
But maybe you think Pochettino can turn his career around. Maybe you think that the big thing Barkley’s been lacking is a great coach, like the one who’s helped Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Harry Winks to become better players.
I think that idea is flawed. While it’s certainly better to have a good coach than a bad one, Eriksen was fairly polished before Pochettino showed up. Dele looked like a generational talent within the first few games of his Spurs career. Winks spent a long time in a good youth system before he ever got to Pochettino. I’m sure he’s positively influenced all of them, but he hasn’t made any of them.
As good as Pochettino may be, he wasn’t able to do anything for Moussa Sissoko. All of the concerns fans had about him from his poor performances at Newcastle were not erased. Pochettino is not a miracle worker. Sissoko had some huge deficiencies when you signed him, and he still has those deficiencies today.
None of the reasons for signing Ross Barkley outweigh the fact that he is much worse at football than a dozen other attacking midfielders who are willing to play for Tottenham Hotspur. A player doesn’t represent good value for money if he actively hurts his team most of the time he’s on the pitch, regardless of the price.
You can do better, Dan. Look elsewhere.