Report: Ross Barkley Is Manchester United’s Top Target in January 2014 Transfer Window

Ross BarkleyRoss Barkley‘s current manager calls him a “diamond” of English soccer. Barkley’s former manager is ready to do some mining in January.

Barkley has emerged as Manchester United’s top transfer target for the January 2014 transfer window, and United manager David Moyes is ready to spend as much as £50 million ($82.6 million) to sign him from Everton next month, according to the Manchester Evening News.

“Ross Barkley is at the top of David Moyes’ New Year wish list,” the report says. “The United manager is determined to be at the head of the queue for Everton’s in-demand starlet.”

Barkley’s stock is skyrocketing after an impressive first half of the 2013-14 season, when he rose from prospect to England’s great hope. He has scored three goals in 18 games in his first season as a regular starter, helping Everton force its way into contention for both the Premier League title and UEFA Champions League qualification. His impressive displays prompted England manager Roy Hodgson to play him in three recent games, and he now has legitimate aspirations of earning a place on England’s squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Barkley’s progress has also made him one of the Premier League’s most in-demand players. United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal are thought to be tracking his progress with an eye toward a potential transfer bid, but United probably has the advantage in any race for Barkley. The Red Devils are looking for an another attacking midfielder, and Barkley has an existing relationship with Moyes, United’s manager.

Moyes, Everton’s manager from 2002-13, oversaw Barkley’s development in the Toffees’ youth system. He signed the teenage attacking midfielder to his first professional contract (when he was recovering from a broken leg) and gave him his first-team debut in August 2011.

Moyes and United will face stiff resistance if they try to sign Barkley next month, as Everton manager Roberto Martinez is eager to retain his services. Two weeks ago, Martinez told reporters that Everton would offer Barkley a new contract in early 2014. Last week, he said that Everton wouldn’t sell Barkley in January for any price, according to Sky Sports.

“Even if we got a Gareth Bale-size valuation we would never even consider it in January,” Martinez said. “Ross is an icon for us. He represents everything we are trying to do this season, so even if a stupid offer arrived in January, it would never affect us.

“It is important for us as a football club to show we are making the right decisions.

“There is no question mark over Ross’s future. He is in the best moment of his time and is everything we want a player to represent at Everton.

“There is not even a question mark against whether he is going to be here in February or not.”

Liverpool-born Barkley has given no indication that he wants to leave his boyhood club, giving Everton leverage in potential dealings with United or any other club. United’s pursuits of Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini made them few friends at Everton last summer, so the Red Devils should expect to start the bidding with an astronomical figure if they want the young star in January.

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Photo via Facebook/Ross Barkley