Everton winger Gerard Deulofeu has carried the tag of being the “next big thing” for some time, but manager Roberto Martinez believes he will soon start to deliver on his early promise.
Hailed as the best of the next generation of youngsters to emerge from Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy, the 21-year-old has struggled to find his feet.
Unable to hold down a place in Barcelona’s first-team squad of stars he was loaned out to Everton and Sevilla and it was the first of those spells which laid the foundations for a permanent move to Goodison Park.
Martinez believes severing ties with the club he joined as a nine-year-old – even if Barca retain a buy-back option for the next two years – can only benefit the youngster.
“He hasn’t got that feeling in the back of his mind that he is going to go back to his parent club,” he said. “He now needs to find solutions by himself and he needs to earn the right to develop into a world-class footballer.
“When he gets the ball you stand up and pay attention. That type of player is very difficult to find.”
Martinez added: “He has the talent to do that, but now there are many other aspects he needs to understand as a team player and as part of a team, the certain actions you need to do.
“It is not going to be overnight but I do believe that we have the perfect environment for him to develop and fulfil the enormous potential he has.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how he can develop into one of the most exciting attacking players in European football.”
Deulofeu admits his two loan spells allowed him to develop outside the confines of Barcelona and believes he returns to England a more rounded individual.
“I am a more mature player now,” he said. “When I first came to Everton I came from the Spanish second division. I learnt a lot at Sevilla last season.
“I am going to carry on learning throughout my career but, yes, I agree, I am a better footballer now than I was two seasons ago.”
The acquisition of England international Tom Cleverley, whose contract expired at Manchester United, also gives Martinez more options in midfield.
Another central defender is high on the Spaniard’s list of summer requirements after the departures of Sylvain Distin and Antolin Alcaraz effectively left him with Phil Jagielka and John Stones.