Jack Grealish insists he knew England team-mate Jude Bellingham would be a star of the World Cup.
Borussia Dortmund midfielder Bellingham has been crucial to Gareth Southgate’s plans in Qatar and his performance in Sunday’s 3-0 last-16 win over Senegal belied his age and experience.
The 19-year-old laid on the first goal for Jordan Henderson before driving forward to lead the counter-attack which saw Harry Kane double the advantage on the stroke of half-time.
He has also got on the scoresheet himself, breaking the deadlock in the opening 6-2 victory against Iran which has so far largely set the tone for England.
Grealish has now joined the list of names praising Bellingham as he agreed with Phil Foden, who said the former Birmingham man could become the world’s best midfielder.
“He is a top, top lad, honestly he is such a good guy,” said Grealish.
“So mature in the way he plays, he can defend, he can tackle, he can run with the ball, he can score goals – he can do everything, honestly.
“Me personally, I knew he would shine at this tournament, honestly. I just I knew he would, I think in the past year he has definitely got a lot, lot better.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on him because we have other brilliant players, Phil as well, who’s world class, but he’s a brilliant lad and he’s so important for us already. He’s only 19 and I’m sure he’s got his whole career ahead of him, but if he just keeps going the way he is he will be absolutely frightening.”
There was only one area where Grealish felt Bellingham was to be found wanting – his club loyalties.
He told ITV Sport: “He’s brilliant. He’s got everything – the only thing that he hasn’t got is he isn’t a Villa fan, he is a bluenose, you can’t have everything can you!”
While Bellingham was been pivotal in taking England into a mouth-watering quarter-final against reigning world champions France on Saturday, Grealish has had to make do with a bit-part role.
The most expensive English player of all time has played just 80 minutes across four substitute appearances, also getting on the scoresheet against Iran in the process.
“I have just come on in the games and obviously I want to play,” he added.
“I would love to start every game and play 90 minutes, but I’m also aware of the talent around me in my position, there is so much talent in those wide areas.
“Whatever my job is here, I’m happy to do. I’m not going to sit here and just say I want to be on the bench, but I would never be sitting there and being like a bad egg because I’m not playing.
“I wouldn’t be thinking, ‘I want Phil or Bukayo (Saka) to do badly’, never, because they are my team-mates and I love them.
“I think that is one thing we have got here, we are like a group of brothers that get on so well off the pitch and when we get on the pitch we are one big team, we are so tight as a team and I think that is what helps us, I really do.”