George Boateng believes Roberto Di Matteo should build his Aston Villa side around Jack Grealish

Aston Villa's Jack Grealish applauds the fans at the end of the match

The 20-year-old playmaker only featured in 16 Premier League games last season due to injury problems and off-field issues.

Aston Villa's Jack Grealish applauds the fans at the end of the match

With new Aston Villa manager Roberto Di Matteo planning a major squad overhaul this summer, former claret and blue midfielder George Boateng has told Sky Sports News HQ that the Italian should look to build his team around Jack Grealish.

Grealish, 20, was expected to take another big step forward last season after bursting onto the Premier League scene during the 2014-15 campaign’s run-in, but a series of injuries and off-field issues ending up limiting him to just 16 top-flight appearances.

The homegrown playmaker was sent to train with Villa’s Under-21s by former boss Remi Garde in November after he was pictured in a Manchester nightclub just hours after a 4-0 loss at Everton, while he went on to start just two more matches over the rest of the campaign after returning to the first-team setup two weeks later.

His performances on the rare occasions he was called into action also left much to be desired, with the club losing every league game he played as they finish bottom of the table with only 17 points and three wins.

Aston Villa's Jack Grealish (R) warms up during the match

Nevertheless, Boateng remains a big fan of the Solihull native and believes he could be crucial to helping the West Midlands side make an immediate return to the top-flight if Di Matteo can get him back on track.

Speaking on Wednesday morning, the Dutchman told Sky Sports News HQ: “You have players like Grealish. He’s a massive talent. Di Matteo has to try to convert that talent into a solid payer.

He’s a great player. He’s got pace, he can beat players, he can score goals – he’s got all the attributes you need to have as a good player.

“Now he needs to sort out his off-field issues, try to be more professional. He’s young, we all make mistakes. Di Matteo is the one to guide him and protect him from things that have gone wrong in the past.

“He’s one of the players that they need to try to build around.”

Aston Villa's Jack Grealish during the warm up session before the game

despite his problematic season, Grealish earned his first England Under-21 call-up last month following a successful switch from the Republic of Ireland and went on to help Gareth Southgate’s side win the Toulon Tournament for the first time since 1994, scoring two goals in four games.

Rumours subsequently surfaced that Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Stoke City are all monitoring the creative midfielder [h/t The Telegraph], but Di Matteo has since dismissed suggestions of an imminent departure.

"I know all about him. I've done all my research on him,” the former Champions League-winning Chelsea boss told the Birmingham Mail last week. "Don't worry about that. I'm not going to go into details about where I see him playing right now – that would be wrong.

"I think you need to give it a bit of time and you will all see. What I will say is that I think he is a talented boy and I think he has a future here. Let me work with him a little bit.”

Aston Villa's Jack Grealish in action

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