KEY POINTS

  • Emile Heskey believes Jack Grealish's international career will still thrive without a big club attached to his name
  • The former England striker thinks Grealish is not suited for United and is better off with Villa
  • Grealish signed a new five-year deal to extend his stay at Villa Park until 2025

Former England striker Emile Heskey believes Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish would not have been able to show his full potential if he had joined Manchester United, the big-name club he was linked to this summer.

In an exclusive interview with HITC, Heskey weighed in on Grealish’s decision to stay at Villa and how he would’ve fit in at United’s squad. According to the England legend, the 25-year-old player could’ve risked his future had he opted to sign with the Red Devils, given the club’s transfer strategies.

“[Manchester United] keep buying midfielders,” Heskey said. “They keep packing that midfield with the same players. Are you [Grealish] just going to be a number in that midfield? Or go to a club where you can see the progression?”

In September, Grealish signed a new five-year contract with his boyhood club Villa. But prior to the agreement, the midfielder was a target of United. The interest eventually faded away following United’s decision to sign Donny Van de Beek from Ajax.

For Heskey, Grealish doesn’t need to represent a world-renowned team such as United in order for his international career to thrive despite England coach Gareth Southgate's recent decision to leave him out against both Belgium and Denmark.

“I don’t think he [Grealish] needs to make a move to grow at international level,” the 42-year-old explained. “Gareth [Southgate] (England’s coach) is showing that as long as you’re showcasing [that ability] within your club, then he’s fine with that.”

“It’s more for Jack himself, to showcase whether he can do it at the highest level,” he continued. “Can he do that with the better players? I don’t think it’s a case of he needs to move to cement his England place, I think Gareth understands that.”

Aston Villa's Jack Grealish stops Liverpool's Naby Keita in his tracks Aston Villa's Jack Grealish stops Liverpool's Naby Keita in his tracks Photo: POOL / CARL RECINE

Due to his consistent impressive showing at Villa, Grealish managed to make his national team debut this year. He then committed to his beloved club for another five years and is very happy with his decision.

“I am delighted to make this commitment to Villa,” Grealish told the club's official website last month. “It is my club, my home and I am very happy here. The owners have made it very clear to me how ambitious they are and how they want to build Aston Villa.  There are exciting times ahead and I am very glad to be part of it.”

Villa CEO Christian Purslow, meanwhile, expressed his gratitude for Grealishe’s loyalty to the club while also acknowledging the team captain’s achievement at the international level.

“Jack is an emblem of our owner’s vision for Aston Villa,” Purslow said. “He joined our club as a local boy aged six and has developed into one of the country’s finest players finally becoming a full England international last week.”

“We are determined to build a top team around him and are delighted that he is extending his contract and committing himself to the club he loves,” he added.