Graeme Souness has questioned whether Jack Grealish has the right work-rate to succeed at a top club.
Grealish has been one of the few bright sparks for Aston Villa on their return to the Premier League this season. The 24-year-old has provided seven goals and six assists in the league, but Villa are in the relegation zone with just five games left.
If Villa do go down, then Grealish may not return to the Championship with them. Reports have suggested that Manchester United are close to an agreement for the midfielder.
Manchester City have also been linked with a move after selling Leroy Sane to Bayern Munich. But speaking after Villa’s loss to Liverpool on Sunday, Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness has cast doubt on Grealish’s ability to reach the top.
“There’s no doubting he has genuine quality,” the former Liverpool midfielder said.
“In a bigger team he wouldn’t have to take so many touches, because people would be showing for the ball and making better movement for him. We won’t know until or if that should happen.
“He has got qualities, but at the top teams today – do Liverpool carry any passengers when they don’t have the ball? No. Do Man City? Definitely not.
“No-one has anyone who is standing with their hands on their hips when you lose the ball. Everyone has to get their sleeves rolled up and press, or be the second one to press, or the third one to press.
“That’s something that’s not in his game right now.”
HESKEY DEFENDS GREALISH
However, fellow pundit and former Villa striker Emile Heskey dismissed those claims – suggesting that Dean Smith’s tactics are the reason for Grealish’s style.
“I don’t think so, myself,” Heskey said when asked if Souness’ assessment was fair. “But he’s in a team that is not necessarily on the front-foot like the top teams where you give the ball away and then you suddenly go pounce on people like that.
“When Liverpool give the ball away, within three passes they try and get it back straight away. Whereas Villa will drop back and keep a certain shape and be very solid.
“So I’m guessing it’s just the tactics.”