Roberto Martínez has welcomed Roy Hodgson's continued recognition of Ross Barkley but urged England not to expect too much too soon.
"It is a great thing for a young player to be involved with England, and I know there is no one prouder than Ross is to represent his country," the Everton manager said. "He fully merits the honour, but if we are going to say at this stage that hopes of winning the World Cup rest on Ross's shoulders, we are all stupid. That's where it becomes a big problem because he is not ready for that."
Martínez has had few qualms about starting the 19-year-old for Everton this season, with impressive results, but warned of the dangers of getting too carried away by a player's potential. "We have seen this sort of thing happen before, we see potential and we start talking about winning World Cups," he said. "That sort of expectation could be very negative and detrimental to Ross because he has not yet had that sort of international experience. Ross has terrific potential, but at the moment that is all it is. You cannot pin the hopes of the national team on that. He is ready and willing to give help and support to the team, but giving him the leading role would be foolish and premature."
Barkley first came to Martínez's attention in the FA Cup quarter-final Wigan Athletic won 3–0 at Goodison Park last season, the unexpected victory that supposedly earned the manager his present job. "That was the first time I became aware of his outstanding talent," he said. "He came on and he was the only one that brought something out of nothing. He had a couple of shots that made you think: 'Where did that come from? He didn't have any right to get that.' That was the first time, then in pre-season I could see his ability close-up, and if you look at every performance since then there has been an incredible improvement in everything he has been doing."
Barkley has already been advanced as a more promising long-term prospect than Jack Wilshere and has inevitably been compared to Paul Gascoigne as a creative attacker of rare touch and vision, though Martínez insists he is unique. "You have to be careful with comparisons, he said. "You can see flashes of Gascoigne in his balance and the way he drives with the ball, the way he can strike the ball from outside the box is of the highest level, and if you like he's got the ability to switch play like Ronald Koeman.
"But he is still only a young man and he hasn't reached his peak yet. It is possible he will end up playing in a different position, for instance. I think he can play in many positions, that's a real strength he has. I am sure in the next five years we will see him play in different positions, and he is one of those players that in maybe 10 years will change his position completely, because he has such outstanding ball control and the physical attributes to go with it."
Martínez is not concerned about physical overload on the player, he just intends to keep an eye on his overall development. "At Ross's age you never get physically fatigued because the body can cope with anything," he said. "What you can get is the mental fatigue, you need to have a break and switch off, but Ross isn't at that stage at all. I left him out in the [League] Cup because he plays with an explosive energy, so when he plays three games a week it can take away from his power, but it was more to have him perfect for the next league game.
"When you get to work with Ross you realise how special he is in certain aspects. I've never seen a player with such a symmetrical quality, such balance. Every player has an outstanding side, but the good thing with him is he can be exceptional with both feet. He's blessed with a lot of natural talent but the really great thing is that he is happy to work on it."