Former Premier League champion Alan Shearer has backed Ross Barkley to justify his England call up after a breakthrough spell at Chelsea under Maurizio Sarri.
The Italian has used the former Everton playmaker as his third midfielder alongside Jorginho and N’Golo Kante of late, although usually as an option on the bench to replace Mateo Kovacic.
His decision to start the 24-year-old away against Southampton was rewarded with a goal and an assist as the Blues won 3-0 at St Mary’s.
According to Shearer, still the reigning Premier League record goalscorer, the Englishman is finally beginning to realise his potential.
Speaking as a pundit on BBC Sport’s Match of the Day programme, the ex-Newcastle United striker explained what has changed for the midfielder.
“What’s always been the problem with Ross, besides having from serious injuries, is what’s his best position?” he said.
“Was it a holding midfield role, sitting in as the 10. The penny might have dropped with him also that he understands the game more now and what’s required of him to be successful in a successful team.
“It seems to be happening but he’s also playing with better players now. It’s no coincidence that he’s showing what people thought he had – he can pick his head up and pick a pass.
“Look at the players he’s playing with. Jorginho. Look at what [N’Golo] Kante did for some of the players at Leicester. He’s bound to shine now and also he looks a lot fitter now than he has done. He’s 24 years of age. He should start now to understand the game more.
“It’s right that he’s got the England call up again. We haven’t exactly been blessed in midfield with players who can get their head up and pick a pass.”