LONDON - Everton manager Roberto Martinez has claimed that his club would not sell breakthrough Premier League star Ross Barkley even if they received a world-record offer for him.
Barkley, 20, has been one of the most impressive performers during the first half of the season and hit the headlines again on Sunday when his fine late free-kick gave Everton a 2-1 win at Swansea City.
The midfielder made his England debut in September and is being tipped for a place in the squad for next year's World Cup, while Martinez has compared him favourably with Michael Ballack and Paul Gascoigne.
However, the Spaniard has warned potential suitors that even a fee comparable to the £86 million (US$141 million, 103 million euros) that Real Madrid reportedly paid for Gareth Bale would not be enough to prise Barkley away from Goodison Park.
"Ross is in a moment of his career where first, he knows that he needs to carry on developing and this is the perfect place to do that," Martinez said, in comments reported by several British newspapers on Tuesday.
"Second, he is a mad Evertonian and enjoying every single second. And third, we are in the middle of a season where we would never, ever consider disrupting what we have got in our squad now.
"It is not the right time for the player or the club to consider anything. Even if we got a Gareth Bale-size valuation we would never even consider it in January (when the transfer window re-opens)."
Everton are currently in fifth place in the Premier League table, two points below leaders Liverpool, and host Sunderland in their next fixture on Thursday.