By Will Butcher
Phil Neville believes Everton’s Ross Barkley is on a par with Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne following his display against Leicester on Sunday.
Barkley starred against the Foxes, as Ronald Koeman’s side ran out 4-2 winners at Goodison Park thanks to goals from Tom Davies, Phil Jagielka and a brace from Romelu Lukaku.
Everton’s 23-year-old Barkley proved his creativity with a perfect cross for Lukaku’s first goal, who headed home with ease thanks to the precision and pace of Barkley’s delivery.
Speaking on Sky Sports 1’s live broadcast of Sunday’s clash, ex-Everton captain Neville believes Barkley is equally as good as De Bruyne, before claiming the Belgian is worth £50million.
It’s a bold claim as Barkley has been criticised for his performances the season as he remains inconsistent.
His form saw him miss out on an England squad last year, and although he regained his place in the latest squad, he stayed on the bench for the games against Germany and Lithuania.
By contrast De Bruyne is a constant starter for Belgium and has won plaudits for his performances for Man City.
“Ross Barkley is equally as good as Kevin De Bruyne, and he is a £50million player. He whips the ball in like he does despite going away from the goal [for Lukaku’s first goal],” Neville said.
“He is capable of producing that. You’ve got to look at the ability of the boy, I hate those that criticise him. Support him and he could be great for both club and country.”
Both De Bruyne and Barkley have hit the back of the net five times this season, but De Bruyne has provided 15 assists while Barkley has only managed eight.
Barkley was instrumental in his display during the win for Everton on Sunday, which saw the Toffees take the lead within the first 30 seconds as Tom Davies continued his fine form with a close-range finish.
However, Leicester scored a quick-fire double through Islam Slimani and Marc Albrighton, with goalkeeper Joel Robles likely to be disappointed with his efforts to stop both goals.
But the Toffees remained undeterred and equalised after a sparkling cross from Barkley found Lukaku, before Jagielka headed home his second goal in two games.
Lukaku then doubled his tally and strengthened his position at the top of the Premier League goalscoring rankings by scoring his 23rd of the season from a corner.
In other Everton news, Gary Lineker has delivered his verdict on the Toffees’ win.