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Martinez’s Midas touch has put Barkley on the path to Brazil

Roberto Martinez admits he has made the odd mistake in his handling of Ross Barkley this season, but his total faith in the youngster’s abilities has reaped rewards.

Chris Brunskill

It says a lot about Ross Barkley’s desire and natural ability that he still put in a credible performance at Anfield in February despite being half-fit.

Ok, it wasn’t hard to stand out among the men in blue after that disastrous night against Liverpool, but he still shone on a pitch he should never have been on.

Martinez later conceded that he rushed Barkley back too early, with the youngster having suffered a broken toe against QPR just three weeks earlier.

Barkley was taken off at half time against Aston Villa the following week and was only a late substitute against Spurs eight days later, clearly suffering from the affects of the injury.

At the time the Everton boss said:

"I think Ross is so eager to play and make himself available I did bring him back too early, especially against Aston Villa.

"When you come back you get through with adrenaline but it is when you need to rest from that first game, he needed more time.

"It was too early for him to start the game (against Villa) but Ross is a young man who can get through anything."

The words were classic Martinez, his typical earnest honesty having the simultaneous impact of easing the pressure on Barkley by pinning any below-par performances on the manager, yet still praising the youngster for his ability and attitude.

Barkley’s form did dip in the weeks following his injury; understandable given this is his first season as a Premier League regular.

The word ‘burn-out’ was banded about regularly, with some even suggesting he should drop out of the first-team picture until next season.

Martinez responded by drawing Barkley out of the firing line, but he was never afraid to throw him on from the substitutes bench. He was never going to drop Barkley all together either as some managers may have done – if you are good enough you’re old enough in Martinez’s Everton revolution.

The Spaniard has done a similar thing with Gerard Deulofeu, trying to strike a balance between rest time and vital exposure to first-team football in the season run-in.

Martinez’s methods have paid off handsomely in recent weeks, with Barkley edging to something like his best form once more.

Barkley’s goal against Newcastle encapsulates everything that is great about him: power, pace, poise, determination, fearlessness and outrageous natural ability.

He had the confidence to keep going with the ball and shoot on goal because he knew that even if the shot had missed, he would not have been berated by his manager for failing to pass, but instead praised for having the confidence to have a shot in the first place.

Barkley’s form is spearheading Everton’s late – and very real – surge for a Champions League place, but it is also feathering his own international ambitions.

There is no doubt now that Barkley is in pole position for a spot in Roy Hodgson’s England squad along with the likes of Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling and Southampton’s Adam Lallana (another boyhood Blue incidentally).

The chance to go to Brazil would be wonderful experience for 20-year-old Barkley and I have no doubts he is good enough.

I only hope Hodgson, and more importantly the England fans, do not place too much a burden on his shoulders and allow him the space to make mistakes and learn from them that Martinez has. We have all bought into the Martinez mindset but others may have not.

If he is given that space to flourish then I have no doubts he can become a diamond for the England side like he already is for the Toffees.