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    Gareth Barry hopeful that James Rodriguez can help Everton close gap on Big Six

    ‘The initial signs were very exciting’: Gareth Barry hopeful that Everton’s new-look midfield can help close the gap on the Big Six as former Toffee star hails ‘X-factor’ signing James Rodriguez

    • Gareth Barry has lauded Everton’s new-look midfield following the Spurs win 
    • James Rodriguez, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan all starred in impressive game 
    • Barry, 39, feels the latter pair were ‘clever signings’ before lauding Rodriguez
    • The former Real Madrid star made a big impression on his Premier League debut 

    Gareth Barry has high hopes for Everton‘s new-look midfield, with the former Toffee hopeful that star signing James Rodriguez will bring the best out of his new team-mates as they look to close the gap on the Premier League’s top teams. 

    Carlo Ancelotti’s side got off to a flyer in their season opener at Tottenham last weekend, with a Dominic Calvert-Lewin header enough to see off Jose Mourinho‘s side. 

    The Italian fielded Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucouré, who all joined the club this summer, and the trio impressed and offered hope for Everton fans that they can pose a threat to the Big Six. 

    Gareth Barry is hopeful that Everton’s new-look midfield can help them challenge the top six

    Allan (C), James Rodriguez (L) and Abdoulaye Doucoure performed well in the opening day win

    Allan (C), James Rodriguez (L) and Abdoulaye Doucoure performed well in the opening day win

    And Barry, who retired from professional football earlier this summer after a 22-year career, feels that Ancelotti has made ‘clever signings’ in acquiring the midfielders.  

    ‘Really clever signings. Ancelotti would have looked at last season and felt “where do we need to strengthen?” and I felt the same,’ he told Sportsmail. ‘They were maybe too soft through the centre so to bring in two players in similar positions in Doucoure and Allan tells a big story in itself. 

    ‘Looking at the first game of the season they put in fantastic performances and as a unit really made the team solid. The star signing, James Rodriguez, settled in straight away too and he’s going to bring that extra quality that you’re going to need to compete with the big teams.’

    Rodriguez joined from Real Madrid and has been hailed as an 'X-factor signing' by Barry

    Rodriguez joined from Real Madrid and has been hailed as an ‘X-factor signing’ by Barry

    The 29-year-old settled quickly and was up for the hustle and bustle of the Premier League

    The 29-year-old settled quickly and was up for the hustle and bustle of the Premier League

    Everton have splashed the case in recent seasons but in Rodriguez, they may have the calibre of player to take them to the next level. Barry spoke glowingly of the Colombian who is looking to get his career back on track after a turbulent spell in the Spanish capital.

    ‘He is that real star, X-factor signing, if you like, that will excite not just Everton fans but Premier League fans,’ he continued. 

    ‘They’re the players that we love to see in this league. He’s seemed to settle in really well in the first game. 

    ‘He is not going to be afraid of any of the Premier League strength, hustle and bustle, he seemed really up for it. He should bring out the best in the other players in the squad too.’

    The 39-year-old revealed his excitement for the direction his former club are going, and feels that Ancelotti – a veteran manager who has hopped around different clubs in Europe – will be at Goodison Park for the long run.  

    Barry feels that Carlo Ancelotti will stay at the club for the long haul and oversee the project

    Barry feels that Carlo Ancelotti will stay at the club for the long haul and oversee the project

    The Italian was integral in convincing Rodriguez to join and will hope for more of the same

    The Italian was integral in convincing Rodriguez to join and will hope for more of the same

    ‘It’s a different club from what he’s been used to. The expectations of his former teams have been to win titles and trophies, year in and year out. 

    ‘This is more of a long term project, if you like, so I can’t see him wanting to be around just for a couple of seasons, he’s got a plan for the club and that’s why they’ve brought him in. 

    ‘Big name manager, he’s started bringing in some big name players, like Rodriguez, and I’m sure he won’t want to stop there. The players who are already at the club will be excited for the direction that they’re going.

    ‘Their target has to be about breaking back into the top six. The expectations of someone like Everton can’t be petering around mid-table. They want to be playing in Europe every season so top six this season will be a great year.

    Everton face another of Barry's former clubs, West Bromwich Albion, on Saturday afternoon

    Everton face another of Barry’s former clubs, West Bromwich Albion, on Saturday afternoon

    ‘It won’t be easy, there are a lot of quality teams up there, fantastic squads too, but the initial signs of a tough game away at Tottenham were very exciting.’

    Everton host Premier League newcomers West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, and will be looking to continue their strong start against a side who suffered a miserable opening day against Leicester. 

    ‘West Brom will be hurting from the way they started and it won’t be an easy game,’ Barry insisted. 

    ‘I’ve played for both clubs, I know the mentality that they’re both going to have going into it. In terms of Everton, they need to keep those standards high and know there’s going to be no easy games in the Premier League.’  

    The BT Sport Monthly Pass lets you watch BT Sport for a simple monthly fee of £25 with no contract. Customers can watch all BT Sport Premier League fixtures for the next 30 days including Everton vs West Bromwich Albion from 11.30am on Saturday 19th September. For more info visit bt.com/monthlypass

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