Comment: It's best for Harvey Barnes to see out season-long loan at West Brom
Forget for a moment, if you can, Albion’s own aims of going up this season and focus on the player himself.
“I think for me the loans have worked really well,” said Harvey Barnes, after scoring his fifth goal of the season against Reading.
“I feel it was the step I needed to take at the time, to get that first team experience and get games under my belt.”
Barnes has already been on loan at MK Dons in League One and Barnsley in the bottom half of the Championship.
He impressed for both, but it is at The Hawthorns where he has really caught the eye, where it looks like we are witnessing the birth of a superstar.
Barnes has already scored as many Championship goals for Albion as he did for Barnsley, and he’s done it in half the games.
What’s more, all five of those goals have been the sort of incredible strikes you hurriedly show your friends on your phone, and crucially, they’ve all been vastly different to each other.
Picture them now. There was the curler into the top corner with his weak foot on opening day, and then he mirrored that with the first-time whip into the bottom corner with his right foot against Norwich.
There was the elegant way he opened up his body against Bristol City, that viral Messi-esque solo run from inside his own half to rescue a point at Hillsborough, and then the unstoppable give-and-go against Reading last Saturday.
They are goals of Premier League quality, and there is an argument Barnes is ready for the top tier right now, let alone in January.
But for the sake of his own development, he should remain at The Hawthorns for the whole of his season-long loan.
His performances in blue and white have earned him his first call up to England under-21s, and there is no doubt around these parts the senior team will follow in time.
Barnes has his own designs on England, and with Mason Mount already in the senior squad, playing in the Championship is no longer a barrier. But Gareth Southgate wants his players playing.
The England senior team is slightly fanciful at this stage but Barnes can get there in the next few years if his development is managed correctly.
Would he get the game-time he needs to do that at the King Power Stadium?
He was recalled last January from Barnsley and played a sum total of eight minutes in the Premier League.
The Foxes already have a plethora of options in the three spots behind Jamie Vardy.
James Maddison’s performances at No.10 have earned him an England call-up and Kelechi Iheanacho has also played that role recently.
Out wide, where Barnes can also play, Claude Puel has £12m summer signing Rachid Ghezzal, Premier League winner Marc Albrighton, Fousseni Diabate, and Demarai Gray – whose injury is not as bad as first feared.
Games are vital. Ask any player or manager what is best for development and they will tell you games trump training every time.
It’s not an over-exaggeration to say Claude Puel’s decision could be the defining one of Albion’s season.
There are plenty of players performing well for the Baggies, not least another loanee, Dwight Gayle.
But Barnes is the fulcrum of this side, the creative catalyst who has sparked this scoring streak since he was moved inside to No.10.
It’s a team game, but Darren Moore has built his team around this bright young 20-year-old and he's repaying him in spades.
Rather than be a bit-part player for Leicester, the best thing for his development is to be the main man at The Hawthorns.
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