London: Aston Villa winger Jack Grealish insists he needs to star at a major tournament before he is worthy of comparisons to England legend Paul Gascoigne.
Grealish finally seems to have convinced England manager Gareth Southgate of his quality after shining during the international triple header.
The Villa captain backed up his dazzling displays against the Republic of Ireland and Belgium with another virtuoso performance in Wednesday’s 4-0 win against Iceland.
Grealish’s England breakthrough came after the 25-year-old initially struggled to win over Southgate despite his brilliant form for Villa.
His flamboyant style on the ball has drawn parallels with Tottenham, Lazio and Rangers midfielder Gascoigne, who became a national icon after his superb performances at the 1990 World Cup and the 1996 European Championship.
Grealish admitted to being a big fan of Gascoigne, but made it clear he wouldn’t be worthy of the praise until he took centre stage at next year’s European Championships or the 2022 World Cup.
“I thrive off those kind of comparisons. I love Gazza,” Grealish said.
“I’ve watched his documentary on Netflix about a million times. I love his character on the pitch and off the pitch.
“I loved the way he played football with such freedom and such joy. You hear so many people speak about him and say he was just a joy to watch – and I think that is the biggest compliment that you can have really.
“When people say to me: ‘It is just a joy to watch you’, it makes me happy because that is what I want to do. I just want to entertain people.
“But I also want to be effective on the pitch, just like Gazza was. But those comparisons, I think are obviously far away yet because I have not even played at a tournament, like he did.
“He thrived on the biggest stage and, until I do that, I think I can’t really be compared to him at the moment.”
The volatile Gascoigne was no stranger to making headlines for his antics off the field as well as his eye-catching play on it.
Grealish found himself in trouble as well earlier this year after he breached government advice against non-essential travel during the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
He issued a public apology for the incident in March and has now acknowledged he can influence plenty of people with his behaviour.
“Years ago I didn’t really think it was a thing on the pitch, it was more off the pitch where I still thought I was just Jack from Solihull and I could just go out and do what I want,” he said.
“But as you get older you probably learn that you are a hero to a lot of young lads. You are a role model and you need to watch what you’re doing.”