Belfast Telegraph

Martinez pays tribute to Barry

Everton manager Roberto Martinez is mystified why midfielder Gareth Barry has not earned a recall to the England side since his move to Merseyside.

The 33-year-old, currently sidelined by ankle ligament damage, has been one the club's most consistent performers since initially signing on loan in the summer of 2013.

Martinez believes he is the best in the Premier League in a holding role and is baffled as to why he has not made an international appearance since being forced off with injury in a friendly against Norway on the eve of Euro 2012.

"He is the best defensive midfielder in the league, never mind in English football," said the Everton boss.

"Teams have invested massive amounts of money into bringing in the best foreign players to play in that position - Fernando and Fernandinho at Man City - but you go through all the players in that position and Gareth has been the most consistent.

"He has been overlooked for England - I don't know the reason behind it but it allows him, at 33, to concentrate on being able to play every game for us.

"On one side, I feel he deserves the reward and I don't understand why he is not getting it but on the other, it will extend his career at club level and that is important."

Barry was injured at Sunderland just before the international break, but after initial fears of a broken leg were allayed it is expected he will be out for a matter of weeks not months, and Martinez said he was making good progress.

"He is a lot better. He has had ligament damage and maybe it takes a couple of weeks, but he is recovering well," said the Spaniard, speaking at a We Are Evertonians event in the city.

Martinez has other concerns as in addition to the already-injured John Stones (ankle), Antolin Alcaraz (shoulder) and Arouna Kone (knee), the international break has created more issues.

James McCarthy was called up by the Republic of Ireland but was sent home after they decided not to risk him because of a hamstring complaint, while fellow midfielder Darron Gibson left the squad after coming off in the defeat to Scotland with a knee problem.

Left-back Leighton Baines also returned early after sustaining a hamstring injury with England.

"James was desperate to be involved with his national team but he couldn't make it," Martinez told evertonfc.com ahead of the visit of Crystal Palace.

"We will try to get him fit for West Ham but it is a bit too early to tell. He hasn't been able to train with the team and that is a worry on a Tuesday leading up to a Saturday game.

"It's James' second injury of this nature in the last month and that's a bit of a worry.

"We need to give him perfect treatment and make sure he is fully fit.

"Darron Gibson played against Scotland and got a bit of soreness in his knee.

"He had a year-long lay-off with his ligaments, so we need to be cautious but I'm very confident he will be available to train very soon.

"When you see Leighton Baines pull out of a training session you know that something is wrong but at the moment he is responding well to treatment.

"Again, it is too early to say how long he is going to be out but we remain very positive. Leighton is the type of player that heals very quickly from those sort of injuries."

On a more positive front Belgium forward Kevin Mirallas, who has not played since tearing a hamstring in the Merseyside derby on September 27, is on the verge of a first-team return.

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