Everton have responded to reported interest from Arsenal and Tottenham by placing a high price-tag of £50m on Ross Barkley as the creative midfielder dithers over a contract extension.

Barkley, 23, has already previously stated his desire to play in the UEFA Champions League. With a year left on his current deal at Goodison Park, he could agree terms with another side in January to join on a pre-contract next summer if his situation isn’t resolved, hence Ronald Koeman’s urgency behind getting his future sorted.

However, £50m is significantly high, especially for someone who could leave for nothing in a year’s time.

This season has been a good one for him, despite spells of inconsistency early on – he’s scored six goals (5 in PL) and created nine more assists for Everton this term. Statistically, only Romelu Lukaku has bettered those figures in the final third this season and it’s no surprise that the attacking duo have been heavily linked with lucrative moves away in recent months.

Fee raises questions, rightly so

An article in the Telegraph has said that Barkley’s contract situation is not a factor in the midfielder’s price, instead they are looking to sell for the highest fee possible in the same way they did for John Stones to Manchester City last summer.

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He is rated highly on Merseyside and as top-quality clubs are interested, Everton feel as though there’d be no issues for any side to pay this sort of fee. The question is, how long will this last? If Barkley opts not to sign improved terms, Koeman is likely to keep to his word and could potentially have a dilemma on his hands – does he select him in pre-season?

Manuel Lanzini and Gylfi Sigurdsson are just two names that have been talked about as potential replacements and they’re preparing to recruit more players too. Barkley cannot afford to ruin his aspirations of making the England squad for next year’s World Cup tournament in Russia and needs to be playing on a weekly basis to ensure he has the best possible chance. So what’s next?

The most likely situation is that for now, Barkley signs an improved contract and has assurances that he can leave at the end of next season if Everton don’t qualify for Champions League football. Either that or, one of the interested sides splashes the cash for him.

Either way, Everton cannot afford to play hard-ball in this situation.