Aston Villa boss Dean Smith responds to Jack Grealish comparisons to Lionel Messi

Grealish has drawn comparisons to Messi (Picture: Getty)

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith is confident Jack Grealish can handle the ‘high grade praise’ he’s receiving after he was compared to Lionel Messi.

Grealish, the Villa captain and England international, has been sensational this season, providing 10 assists and scoring six goals in 21 Premier League appearances so far.

Emi Martinez, the former Arsenal goalkeeper who now plays for Villa, hailed Grealish as the most talented player he’d seen and drew a direct comparison with Barcelona hero Messi.

Martinez told TalkSport: ‘Jack is the most talented player I have seen. He never gives the ball away. I just see Messi with a right foot when he is on the ball.’

And Smith is not concerned by how Grealish will deal with such comparisons.

‘Jack handles it very well and yes, he gets stick off the rest of the lads,’ said Smith. ‘But he also handles that very well and gives as good as he gets.

Grealish has been in great form (Picture: Visionhaus/Getty)

‘There is not a person I can look at and say yes, Jack is like him. He is very unique in the way he plays. He handles the football well as everyone knows.

‘I have always said his biggest strength is balance. With or without the ball people try and knock him off his feet and he has great balance when running with the ball. He is just turning out to be a really top player.”

He added: ‘I have only seen Messi in the flesh once. Certainly Emi is in a better place to judge than I am. I am happy with what Jack is producing at the moment both on the pitch and off the pitch.’

For Grealish, being part of Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the postponed Euro 2020 this summer is a priority and Smith hopes he will keep operating at the top level in order to secure that goal.

‘I think all players who have their minds set on the Euros know they have to perform over the second half of the season,’ said Smith.

‘The closer you get to it the more international managers will be looking at their form.

Grealish has been in great form (Picture: Getty)

‘Jack is getting high grade praise now from a lot of top pundits and a lot of top managers. David Moyes, before we played West Ham, called him the best player in the Premier League.

‘It is high praise from a lot of experienced people. The be all and end all with regards to England is it is Gareth Southgate and Steve Holland’s choice to pick.

‘They have an abundance of top talented young players to choose from so it will be tough for them but good for England going into the Euros.’

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