The arrival, on loan from Chelsea, of Ross Barkley for the duration of 2020/21, has perhaps done more to nurture the development of their exciting captain Jack Grealish than anything else since he became Aston Villa’s most important player. In their time together they have demonstrated the extent to which they perform on a similar wavelength, complementing each other to such a degree that becoming Grealish’s teammate may also revive Barkley’s career after it had stalled following so promising a start at Everton.
Having narrowly resisted relegation during 2019/20, Dean Smith’s team, largely because of the ability of Barkley and Grealish to combine with Ollie Watkins and John McGinn, is among the most promising and upwardly mobile outside of the Premier League’s established top six. “He is an unbelievably talented player,” Grealish said. “I (also) see bits of myself in him, the way he can receive the ball, run at players and thread passes.”