Jack Grealish needs to leave his role as “school captain” at Aston Villa in order to become an England regular, says Paul Merson, with a player who has been heavily linked with Manchester United urged to push for a move elsewhere.
Interest from Old Trafford in the 24-year-old playmaker may have ended on the back of the Red Devils’ capture of Netherlands international Donny van de Beek.
Various other landing spots have, however, been mooted for Grealish as his obvious ability starts to catch the eye of those in a wider transfer market.
A number of sides in the Premier League are said to have mulled over an approach for the Villa captain, with the 2019-20 campaign having shown that the classy midfielder can hold his own among the elite.
International recognition has finally come his way on the back of those efforts, with Gareth Southgate eventually adding the midfielder to his latest squad, but Merson feels a change of scenery at club level is required in order for a regular role in the Three Lions set-up to be nailed down.
The former Villa playmaker told the Daily Star: “Jack Grealish deserves his England chance. But he plays like a school captain and might have to leave Aston Villa to progress his career.
“Grealish is always going to divide opinion. He’s a talented footballer. But Gareth Southgate probably watches him and thinks: ‘Does he release the ball enough?’
“At Villa he’s trying to play like the school captain. To take it all on himself. I don’t think he trusts his team-mates there, and it’s probably hurt his England chances.
“Southgate must look at him and wonder if he’s disciplined enough. If he would fit into a different mould for England. Or try to do too much still.
“At a bigger club he would have to adapt. He would find a position and fit into a system and trust his team-mates because they would be on his wavelength. I think he’s a number 10. But in a few years’ time he might become something else.
“England don’t really play with a 10 so you can see why Southgate maybe hasn’t picked him. But he’s clearly good enough. He makes so many chances for Villa.
“I just think the longer he stays there the longer he plays that school captain role where he tries to do too much.
“If he doesn’t move on he could be there for a long time. But he’ll get frustrated trying to finish 17th every season.
“I would play him in at least one of these England games. I’m sure he will get game time. He’s just got to make sure he takes his chance.”