I think it has moved beyond the realm of questioning when I say that Jack Rodwell is an undisputed talent and one that is worthy of rave reviews and adulation.
However, as the youngster approaches fitness after his latest injury layoff, perhaps his guarantee of first team exposure isn´t as secure as it once was.
He is still just 20-years-old, and a full England international on two occasions. He has excelled at every youth level England has to offer, and has proven himself to be every bit the top talent he is.
That said, does he improve our midfield? That´s the question I find myself asking as he pushes once again for a first team spot.
To be fair to him, we have a wealth of talent in central midfield, the position has has been forced to adopt after being developed as a centre-half in his forming years.
Leon Osman, also returning from injury, brings a wealth of experience in midfield, with attacking flair, close control and the ability to pick a pass.
Then we have Marouane Fellaini, a potential world class footballer. He has everything a modern day footballer needs – composure, strength and a bit of flair. He literally dominates a midfield on his day.
Added to that, we´ve brought in Darron Gibson, who has proven himself to be an asset in the middle, whilst unbelievably good prospects like Ross Barkley are failing to get any game time at all.
I rate Rodwell highly. I think his athleticism and composure are a rare find in someone so young. But I have to wonder whether midfield is his long term position.
For me, he´s every inch the next Rio Ferdinand. Comfortable on the ball, and able to pick a pass out with the play ahead of him, but ultimately he is a defensive player whose natural instinct is to protect a defense rather than exploit the opposition.
At one time, over-zealous Evertonians predicted that Rodwell could become the next Steven Gerrard, especially after his performance against Manchester United some time ago. Whilst he does undoubtedly have the ability to be a nuisance in the final third, I think that would not be using him to his strength.
With Sylvain Distin entering his 35th year and Phil Jagielka about to hit his thirties too, it makes sense to me to develop a top class centre-half at the club to step in when that partnership disintegrates in years to come.
Make no mistake – rumours of “bigger” clubs showing interest in young Jack are true. But I am convinced Sir Alex Ferguson eyes him up as the long term partner for Smalling. And I´d be stunned if any club brought him in as a midfielder.
In recent seasons, Rodwell in midfield alongside Fellaini has been a must, simply to provide the backbone for Osman/Cahill/Saha and the wide play. With Gibson coming in and Barkley not far behind him, perhaps it´s time to adopt Jack in the role he was meant to play.
We may cash in on Rodwell in the future, but if we don´t, let´s get him playing in the position where he can make a maximum impact at Goodison Park.