Roberto Martinez believes Ross Barkley should be considered a role model to young players for remaining humble in the wake of global acclaim.
The Everton FC midfielder is in the headlines once again after former England star Paul Gascoigne, a virtuoso to whom Barkley has often been compared, said he can “become one of the country’s best players”.
It follows further attention on the 20-year-old who was accused of diving during the Blues win over West Ham on Saturday.
But Martinez reckons a player he has carefully nurtured since taking over at Goodison in 2013 has the right mental approach to deal with all the publicity.
“He has got the right values as a person and he’s got that love for the game,” said the Catalan. “He hasn’t got a big ego that attracts attention. He doesn’t want to be someone that attracts headlines off the pitch and that’s why he can cope with all of that attention.
“Whatever the situation is, it’s going to be purely about football and done with the right approach and hope of being successful in his career. I’ve got no worries that it’s going to affect him.
“He’s someone who loves being a professional footballer, but not because of the add-ons which come with that. Playing in front of thousands of people is what he enjoys. He gets on the ball and he has an incredible ability and he brings a real happiness with his play.
“He’s not someone who gets excited by the lifestyle that can come with that. This is a very, very good example of what a footballer should be focusing on.
“Even at such a young age, he has been through some difficult moments through injury and he’s always coped with a real integrity and focus.
“So for me, he’s a very good example internally of how I want young players to develop.”
Martinez admitted the media scrutiny of his protege is growing all the time, but is content it will not ruin his progress.
“Everyone wants to have a story about Ross and it would be very difficult if he was a bit weak mentally or he had distractions off the pitch,” he said.
“He is a pristine professional in terms of he loves playing football, he loves helping the team and we manage him well because he is very young and I want him fresh for the second half of the season and for key moments of the campaign.
“He is someone who has already experienced moments of success – going to the World Cup so young, playing for England at senior level and being so important for us. It is a big role and big boots to fill but he does it with a real enjoyment, really humble in his approach and real enjoyment with his football and that makes me really, really proud to have him in the team.”
Barkley’s early career was stunted four years ago when he suffered a horrendous triple leg break aged 16, which saw him spend more than 12 months on the sidelines.
Football – Everton Training – Volkswagen-Arena, Wolfsburg, Germany – 26/11/14 Everton’s Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku (L) during training
However Martinez does not believe that incident has left the academy graduate liable to tumble easily under contact, and insists he takes the knocks of the game in his stride.
“I don’t think it is something he does often,” said Martinez discussing the moment Barkley went to ground after Kevin Nolan’s challenge at the weekend.
“The action on Saturday is an incident where he has got the ball, he’s a little bit off balance, he can see a player and he’s trying to get away from it.
“His reaction is not to stay on the ground and hoping the referee will blow the whistle. He got up quickly and it’s not even in the box, he’s not trying to get a big decision.
“You see him receive a lot of kicks because he protects the ball so well and is so strong that sometimes you try to get away from those contacts, but he is not trying to get a decision from the referee that he could give us a penalty or a real advantage.
“I consider diving is when you’ve got a real intention to get a decision from a referee in areas where he could give you a penalty or a clear situation of getting someone in trouble. That was not the case at all and it has been blown out of all proportion.”