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Hughes exclusive: Chelsea attacker Barkley had potential of Liverpool great Gerrard

Accrington Stanley defender Mark Hughes believes Ross Barkley has had his natural edge coached out of him.

Hughes, now 33, came through the junior and youth system at Everton like Barkley, making his first team debut with his hometown club and captaining the Toffees' U23s.

And the experienced defender concedes there's a frustration watching Barkley now in Chelsea Blue, convinced the Scouser could've done more as a player - despite his still relatively youthful 26.

Hughes had left Everton as Barkley was breaking through, but watching the midfielder regularly, he was convinced they had a world-beater on their hands. Indeed, Hughes has no problem drawing comparisons between the young version of Barkley and a Liverpool great.

Discussing another former teammate's emergence at Everton, Hughes told Tribalfootball.com: "If he (Wayne Rooney) was playing at that age now, I'm not saying it would get taken out of him, but I look at someone like Ross Barkley when he was at Everton, and he came in a bit of a street footballer, but I think managers and even fans they sort of take that out of them.

"I love when a young lad comes through, and he was the one who I thought could be the next Steven Gerrard for Everton, you could have built a team around him. I thought he could've been the best midfielder England had since Steven Gerrard.

"But because the way he played, he used to run with the ball, and sometimes he'd get it taken off him, that's the hardest part of football taking people on. Then the fans would get on his back because he'd given it away, [then] he just started passing it."

Barkley is now in his third season with Chelsea and battling to be an England regular. But Hughes laments that individual flair being coached out of him, convinced he had the natural talent of Rooney or Gerrard.

He added: "He just had that little street footballer taken out of him. I like to watch things as a neutral now, I do support Everton but now I watch the two teams tactically when I go to games now a little bit. And he was the one when I think to myself I felt sorry for him a little bit, even though he's earning £100k a week at Chelsea, but he could've been Everton's Rooney, that local lad coming through."

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Paul Vegas

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