On 5th January, Chelsea announced the signing of Everton midfielder Ross Barkley for a cut-price fee of £15 million, making him their first winter signing of 2017-18.

The midfielder was a Chelsea summer target, however a deadline day bid failed to materialize after Chelsea bid as high as £35 million for the 22-capped England International. The midfielder has been out due to a hamstring injury since past some time and has failed to muster a single game this season.

Chelsea however, got their man this time around and signed him for a paltry £15 million fee. Being just 24-year-old and even garnering the praise of Barcelona legend Xavi, the midfielder has come a long way since joining Everton as a 11-year-old ‘quiet’ boy.

Born on 5th December, 1993 in city of Liverpool, Barkley joined Everton in 2010, as a 11-year old kid. Barkley had success written all over him from the moment he had football at his feet. Watching the 8-year-old Barkley play some wonderful football, manager of Ash Celtic, one of Liverpool’s local football teams, said: “he’s going to play for England”.

And boy was he right! Barkley played at almost every England International youth team levels before finally making it to the England senior team in 2013. Barkley’s grandfather is of Nigerian descent and thus he was eligible to put on colours of Nigeria or England, however he opted for the latter.

A game against Yeovil stands out in particular where the midfielder would hit the crossbar twice from either foot from 25-yards, reminding everyone around of his qualities. How badly Barkley wanted to play football is evident from the fact that he used to sometimes run almost 6 miles from his home in Wavertree to Everton’s training ground.

Barkley was described as someone who’s “always quite quiet, respectful” by his PE teacher at school. Looking up to Rooney as a role-model, who knew the Englishman would get a chance to rub shoulders with the all-time England great.

Barkley played his first game for Everton reserves in 2010/11 against Chelsea, where he scored the lone Everton goal in a match that culminated in 1-1 draw. The 17-year-old was guaranteed a Premier League debut by David Moyes in 2010 however the England International suffered a triple leg break while playing at England Under-19 tournament.

“I broke my leg. It was difficult for me and I was upset because I wanted to play for the first team at 16. I looked up to Rooney and he had played for Everton when he was 16 and I wanted to do the same. I had been on the bench four times by then and David Moyes had said he wasn’t scared to play me. He said he would give me my debut when I got back from England but then I broke my leg,”

Barkley explained. However, with persistent support from his mother and David Moyes, Barkley made a tremendous recovery and the England International made his Premier League debut at a tender age of 17, where he would acclaim praise of many football pundits.

Being one of the many high-profile Everton academy graduates, Barkley was handed his England U-21 debut in September 2011. Barkley was loaned out to Sheffield Wednesday in 2012/13 season for gaining more first-team experience but his loan-term, in which he scored 4 goals in 13 appearances, was cut short, despite being awarded Sheffield Wednesday’s Player of the Month award for October.

Barkley was sent to Leeds United for a small stint again, in which he would play just 4 times for the club. Barkley would then be inducted into Everton’s 2013-14 season, with Everton Manager Roberto Martínez particularly impressed with Barkley’s technique and physicality.

Barkley would go on to become a regular face in the Everton lineup racking up a total of 179 appearances for the club, scoring 27 times. He made his senior international debut in September 2013, coming on as substitute for Jack Wilshere. 2015-16 saw the best of Barkley in an Everton shirt, when he scored 12 times for the Goodison Park outfit. With Roberto Martinez’s departure, Barkley suffered a dip in form, netting just 6 times in 2016-17 season.

Once named in a poll of best 23 players under the age of 23, Barkley’s name can’t be taken unfortunately in the same breath again. A career plagued by injury recently resulting in lack of regular football would bite on his confidence and Barkley knows that only self-belief and hard-work can lead him into Chelsea lineup. Given the No. 8 shirt previously worn by club legend Frank Lampard, much is anticipated from the Englishman.

With Conte appreciative of his qualities and tending to him as a “complete player”, it’s time for Barkley to show the world what it wants to see – a world-class player, and what’s better than being at a top European club, with plenty of years still in your kitty.