Euro 2016 Qualifier: Barkley a hype or hope?

Euro 2016 Qualifier: Barkley a hype or hope?

English football just cannot help itself.

Young, talented players are no longer just promising prospects. They are one decent game away from joining their nation's immortals, one dazzling dribble from a £60 million ($122m) move to Manchester City.

A handful of international caps are now a shortcut to superstardom and a few accolades are enough to give rise to the Great White Hope.

Ross Barkley is at risk of being pulled from a pedestal he never wanted to stand on in the first place.

As he prepares for only his 10th England cap against Slovenia tomorrow morning (Singapore time), the Everton midfielder is having greatness thrust upon him without so much as a fancy flick or a driving run from the centre circle.

The Premier League's endless, insatiable demand for hyperbole has been supplied by the ludicrous comparisons thrown in Barkley's direction.

In recent days, the 20-year-old has been mentioned in the same sentence as Paul Gascoigne not by a lazy hack looking for a cheap headline, but by the manager of his national team.

Barkley's dynamism and his muscular ability to leave markers trailing do share faint echoes of the most naturally talented English footballer of his generation (and arguably the generation after that), but there is no more than a passing resemblance at this stage.

POTENTIAL

Barkley and Gascoigne are united in their youthful potential. But Gascoigne delivered, if only briefly, before reaching for the self-destruct button.

At the age of 23, Gascoigne achieved infamy in Turin, but also came close to immortality at Italia 90.

He was more than a Cruyff turn and a reliable free-kick taker. He was an instinctive leader in a nightclub bouncer's body.

Blessed with the upper-body strength of a boxer and the dainty toes of a ballerina, Gascogine was the first of the modern English footballers. Barkley is barely a facsimile of the fallen giant.

The Everton man has also represented the Three Lions at a World Cup, but barely registered in an abject side.

The failings of his fumbling comrades were not Barkley's fault, but he rarely tried to steer his own course, changing the direction of a game as Gascoigne once did for England, Tottenham and Lazio.

Of course, Barkley has done nothing wrong here. He is a victim of England's incessant demand for success and its deluded opinion of both its national game and its professional league.

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