With the majority of Everton’s attention focused on convincing Romelu Lukaku to extend his stay at Goodison Park, Ross Barkley’s contract situation has been somewhat overlooked.
When this summer comes around, the England midfielder will have just a year left on his remaining deal.
The general consensus has been that he would agree to an extension, after all, why would a boyhood Blue not want to stay at the club as they sit on the precipice of something special?
Recent indications, however, suggest all may not be well. The last several weeks have seen manager Ronald Koeman laying down ultimatum after ultimatum. Sign or be sold.
The Dutchman’s press conference on Thursday ahead of Friday’s visit of Watford continued in that vein.
“There’s still a week left. Time for him to decide. The board is already working for a while to persuade him to stay but it’s up to the player.
“We need an answer before the end of next week or we will sell the player. If you need so much time then you have doubts. I like to work with players who like to stay."
The ball is very much in Ross Barkley’s court in this situation. Unlike in the past, it seems Everton will not be pandering to the emotions.
In the ruthless world of Farhad Moshiri and Ronald Koeman, the lines are no longer blurred by Bill Kenwright’s sentimentality. If Ross does not want to be at Everton, he will be sold. There shall be no debate on the subject.
So what will the 23-year-old’s decision be? A look at the history books would give him an obvious answer; sign the new contract.
David Moyes famously quoted that those who leave Everton rarely go on to greater things. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, Wayne Rooney being the most obvious one.
By and large, though, Goodison Park has proven to be the peak of many a professional’s careers. Moyes himself is a testament to that.
Unlike in the past, there is no logical reason to depart at this moment in time. Under Koeman and Moshiri the club is going places on and off the pitch and it would be foolhardy to leave especially with a big summer looming.
Barkley has the opportunity to be at the heart of that revitalisation. If he is truly the true blue Everton have sold him as then the chance should have him salivating.
"Barkley can go onto hold iconic status at our great club and, maybe, go onto to become the most successful Everton player of the modern era."
He is also not going to get better than what he’s got right now. He would not get into any team that currently sit above Everton in the table.
Tottenham Hotspur has been touted as a possible destination but they have Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli. If Ross wants to sit on the bench for the season leading up the World Cup, then he will never be an England regular.
A move to Europe may be an option but would any club bigger than Everton want him? It’s unlikely. Would they also put up with his frustrating lack of consistency? It’s unlikely.
If Barkley does have his doubts, it’s hard to fathom where they are coming from. Everton is the best place for him right now and the evidence is there to prove it.
A departure is unlikely to advance his career in the short term and a look at the history books will tell him it is unlikely to do so in future either.