According to his manager, Gareth Barry is a living, breathing text book for any budding midfielder.
If a few eyebrows were raised when Everton FC gave the 33-year-old a three-year contract in the summer, Roberto Martinez certainly did not blink in agreeing the terms,
Martinez wants every wannabe defensive anchorman at Finch Farm to study the former England international in fine detail.
In fact, he insists there could be no better role model.
“I keep seeing him giving real footballing lessons in everything he does,” says the Blues boss.
“I want everyone in the academy who wants to play in that midfield role to study him. He is phenomenal in his standards; everything has to be perfect for him.
“He has got great awareness, composure and a really penetrating pass.
“Everything he does, he does with class and he’s someone that I know looks after himself and will be playing until his legs can’t go any longer.
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“Whatever way you want to look at it he’s a perfect player to have at the club.”
Stopping Barry, or at least unsettling his metronome-like effect, could be the blueprint for any opponents looking to stifle the Blues, but Martinez insists that is not so easy.
“It’s the understanding he has of the game,” he says.
“When you mention numbers like 500 games in the Premier League there is a lot of meaning in those numbers.
“That really tells you something. It means he has been through every single situation a player can have.
“He knows how to get time on the ball and if a defensive tactic is used against him he knows someone else can use that space.
“It’s something which comes with that sort of experience. There’s his technical gifts but his biggest strengths are his character, and experience.”
Barry began his career as a defender at Aston Villa, a stint which his manager believes gave him the perfect education for his eventual role as a holding midfielder.
“He was able to see everything in front of him, then he became a left-sided centre half in a back three and after that a box to box midfielder,” says Martinez, who played a similar midfield role himself during stints at Wigan, Chester and Swansea among others.
“Gareth’s array of positions has fed his know-how,” he says.
“Look at how he always presents himself. He’s such a brave player. He always wants the ball in tight situations and can sense danger.
“If a youngster wants to play that role I really think Gareth is the perfect example.”
If selected tomorrow, Barry will be tasked with dealing with a lively attacking Crystal Palace trio of Dwight Gayle, Wilifried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie.
And after two sobering encounters with the Londoners last term yielded only a point for the Champions League-chasing Toffees, Martinez insists his side must prove they have learned their lessons.
The low-point of those games was a 3-2 Goodison defeat. “You get games that can get a little bit crazy like that,” he says.
“I thought that night we actually played well but then they got three chances from open play and scored twice and then scored from a set play.
“We scored two from open play but you have to say on balance they deserved their win. They did well.
“The next step is that we have the awareness of not conceding from any sort of action and be ourselves in front of goal.
“They frustrated us at Selhurst Park as well and had chances of their own.
“It shows you what a good side they are to only get a point from a potential six.
“It will be a great opportunity for us to show if we learned our lessons and progressed as a team.”
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