Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has been criticised for sending Ross Barkley out on loan to Aston Villa, with Paul Merson declaring that the Blues boss has offloaded “a superstar”.
Barkley joined Chelsea from Everton in 2018 but the 26-year-old has struggled to establish himself as a first-choice midfielder under either Maurizio Sarri or Lampard.
He has racked up 86 appearances, scoring 11 goals and laying on 11 assists, in his two years at the club but has only started 26 times in 52 Premier League games across that time.
And the west London outfit have allowed him to leave on loan for Villa, with it appearing unlikely the England international will play for Chelsea again.
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But Arsenal hero Merson, a self-confessed Chelsea fan, thinks that Lampard has made a mistake in allowing the midfielder to move on from Stamford Bridge.
Writing in his Daily Star column, Merson said: “Frank Lampard has made a mistake sending Ross Barkley out on loan because he will be a superstar for Aston Villa.
“What a signing that is. I can’t quite believe it, if I’m honest. How Barkley doesn’t get in the Chelsea team beats me. He is a huge talent.
“To let him go like this, especially to another Premier League team, is a dangerous game by Frank.
“If Barkley hits the ground running and starts ripping it up for Villa then serious questions will be asked why Lampard let him go.
“Chelsea have already gone out of one of the cups and they have looked hit and miss so far in the league despite spending all that money.
“They are still not defending well and Frank won’t need any extra pressure on him from Ross Barkley tearing things up at Villa Park.
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“Chelsea have loads of midfielders. But Jorginho and Matteo Kovacic can’t go past people like Ross Barkley can.
“I think they are missing a trick letting him go on loan. I’m shocked they’ve let it happen. But it’s a brilliant signing by Villa.”
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Merson believes Barkley’s arrival at Villa will have a hugely positive impact for the Villans, who narrowly avoided relegation to the Championship last season.
He added: “Villa have gone from fighting for 17th to causing problems in mid-table with this signing. It’s massive for them.
“They are going to surprise a few teams. I think they are dangerous now. They won’t have to worry about relegation.
“Villa is a massive club. I know because I played there and loved it. Ross Barkley needs to play football.
“He’s not getting a game regularly enough at Chelsea, and he’s done the right thing going somewhere he can play every week.
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“I think he will love it at Villa, I really do. And I could see him staying there long term. Being sent out on loan tells me he doesn’t have a future at Chelsea.
“But Dean Smith is building something good at Villa and Ross Barkley could turn his career around there if it all works out for him.
“He’s not young anymore. He needs to make this move count. I always thought he was trying to play it too safe at Chelsea.
“He was afraid to play the risky pass. The pass he’s good at. But I think he will be able to be more of a free spirit at Villa and that should suit him.
“It’s a move that should bring out the best in him. But it could come back to bite Frank Lampard.”
Speaking of his move to Villa Park, Barkley said his England aspirations drove his desire to depart Chelsea.
He explained: “It was the chance to play more regularly and obviously a massive club like Villa, it’s great to be here and I’m looking forward to the season.
“[The Euros are] a big influence. The last couple of years I’ve been stop-start really, performing and then out the team.
“To come here and have the chance to play regularly was a big thing. With the Euros being at the end of the season it’s a big target of mine to be there and be in the squad.
“They [Villa] know my strengths and what I’ll add to the team. Going forward, wanting to improve this season compared to last season.
“Dean Smith swayed me with the way he spoke to me and it looks like it’s going to be an exciting season.
“[I can play as a] box-to-box in a midfield three, getting goals, getting assists and linking up [as] number eight, going forward and getting goals and chipping in with defensive duties as well.”
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