Ross Barkley has opened up about his acrimonious Everton departure - and why he feels like his Chelsea move can 'improve' him as a player.
The boyhood Blue left Goodison Park in a £15m deal earlier in January, and has been slaughtered on social media by Evertonians for the manner in which he decided to leave the club that gave him a platform to follow his dream.
Speaking to Sky Sports, however, Barkley insisted that he needed to leave to fulfil his potential, but added that he would forever be grateful for the tutelage the Toffees had provided.
He said: "I had never thought about leaving Everton over the years but it was getting to a point where I felt like I needed to make a move to improve as a player, and playing with the level of players here like Eden Hazard will only make you better.
"Everton means the world to me. I am a boyhood fan, I am a local lad and have supported Everton all my life, it was a very hard decision but I felt it was right to make the jump to Chelsea. I am grateful for what the club did for me over the years and it was hard to leave. The fans were great with me.
"I am thankful for everyone at the club that helped me, the fans, the coaches that I have had, the staff that have helped with injuries, I am really grateful to everyone at Everton. It was like a family to me."
He’s gone 4 years without improving— Sam Lake (@GueyeForGana) January 19, 2018
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The 24-year-old has often been criticised for not producing enough end product, and Barkley maintained that he was focusing on bagging 'more goals and assists' now that he was fit again after a hamstring injury lay off.
He continued: "Last season I improved a lot of things in my game. The previous season I had scored more goals but last season I created more chances and created more goals.
I really like @RBarkley20 attitude and that he wants to be world class. By coming to @ChelseaFC will be his first step towards his goal. Better players, @ChampionsLeague , cups, he will have to play to his full potential.— Chelsea FC Fan Club (@ConteBlueArmy) January 20, 2018
"I feel like season by season I am improving, now I want to add more goals and more assists and improve my all-round game."
And what does the England international hope to achieve by moving to west London to join the reigning Premier League champions?
He added: "I am obsessed with improving. I want to get to a level where I am regarded as one of the best and coming to a club like Chelsea if the right platform to improve.
"I want to be regarded as a world-class midfielder. At the moment I have a lot of potential and a lot of world-class attributes and I want to showcase that at a massive club like Chelsea and win things and be regarded as a top quality player."