Jack Grealish will “100 per cent” head for the exits at Aston Villa if Dean Smith’s side are relegated, admits Paul Merson, with the reported Manchester United target needing Premier League football in order to keep his England dream alive.
The 24-year-old playmaker has made no secret of the fact that he wants to break into the senior Three Lions fold, with one eye on a place in Gareth Southgate’s squad for the European Championship in 2021.
In order to keep himself in contention, Grealish will need to be rubbing shoulders with English football’s elite on a regular basis.
He is doing that at present with boyhood club Villa, but has been unable to steer them clear of danger.
Speculation regarding his future is building as a result, with United said to head the queue for his signature, and Merson concedes that a big-money move is looking ever-increasingly likely.
The former Villa midfielder told Sky Sports: “I would say 100 per cent. If Villa go down then I think they will get rid of Jack and he will be sold.
“He’s a Villa man through and through, he loves Aston Villa, but he will have to move on, there is no doubt about that if he wants to better himself.
“It’s horrible saying that, better yourself, because it’s a great club, but he will have to play in the Premier League.
“In this day and age, you play in the Premier League if you want to play for England. It’s very rare that you’re not playing in the Premier League or a top European league and you’re playing for England. For me, he would have to be sold.”
With a transfer expected to be in the pipeline, Merson also believes that the decision to push Euro 2020 back 12 months due to the coronavirus outbreak could work in Grealish’s favour.
He added: “I think it probably helps Jack Grealish. I think Jack Grealish was probably a 30-70 or 35-65 against him to go, so one more good season this year…
“I think he will move on and I think it will help him.
“But football’s a funny game. You look at players that were flying along and they were young lads, but all of a sudden they could lose form.
“It’s swings and roundabouts, but it’s great news for [Marcus] Rashford and [Harry] Kane, there is no doubt about that because the last thing you want to do is go to a competition and you’re not fully fit, when you’re playing against the crème de la crème of European football.”
Manchester United forward Rashford and Tottenham striker Kane had picked up untimely knocks which put their participation at Euro 2020 in doubt, but both have seen the path cleared to work on their fitness and find form at club level before turning their attention back to international matters.